Executive Summary for February 24th

We review the latest Arctic news, including a sign that the chilly relationship between Norway and Russia may warm up slightly, declines in persistent organic pollutants across much of the Arctic and the changing behaviour of narwhals.

Published on Feb. 24, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Norway-Russia Relations May Be Thawing

Norway’s foreign affairs minister plans to travel to Arkhangelsk next month for an Arctic conference that could be seen as marking a thaw in political relations between the two countries, following the chill that set in after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

The conference will be attended by many prominent Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, the Barents Observer reports.

Norway’s foreign minister, Børge Brende, hasn’t visited Russia for the past three years. But Brende has recently spoken about the importance of the countries cooperating on issues such as nuclear safety, fisheries management, search and rescue and environmental protection.

The Barents Observer recently reported on some worrying signs of strife between the two countries. Two Norwegian parliamentarians were recently denied entry to Russia, Norway’s secret service says Russian spies are trying to lure Norwegian residents into compromising situations and attempts have been made to hack the email accounts of Norwegian politicians.

New Report Finds Decline in Arctic Pollutants

A new Arctic Council report finds “significantly decreasing trends” in the amounts of persistent organic chemicals found in the circumpolar world.

As Nunatsiaq News reports, these chemicals – which include PCBs, DDT and dioxins – are produced for a variety of industrial uses and end up being carried by air and by water currents to the Arctic, where they collect in the fats of animals and humans and are known to cause health problems.

The report warns against complacency, however: Some newer chemicals are showing signs of increasing, and there can be a lag of several decades between the arrival on the market of a new chemical and a full understanding of its environmental consequences.

Narwhals Terrified by Encroaching Killer Whales

The growing presence of killer whales in Arctic waters is prompting dramatic changes in the behavior of narwhals.

As the Canadian Press reports, researchers tracking both animals off the north coast of Baffin Island have discovered that narwhals cower close to shore when killer whales are around. Extensive sea ice in the area once kept killer whales away, but warming temperatures have brought the animals further north.

Having narwhals spend more time closer to shore is at least welcomed by Inuit hunters, who value the whales as food.

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