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Shocking photographs show two adorable polar bear cubs playing with large plastic sheets

These unsettling pictures show two adorable polar bear cubs playing with a large sheet of plastic on a remote Arctic island.

The siblings were spotted with their mother on the icy coast of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago about halfway between the mainland and North Pole.

The black plastic stands out against the seemingly spotless landscape as the youngsters paw at it, before putting it in their mouths.

Svalbard is hundreds of miles from continental Europe and has a population of about 2,500, yet researchers navigating the freezing waters found plastic waste wherever they went. 

 

These unsettling pictures show two adorable polar bear cubs playing with a large sheet of plastic on a remote Arctic island. Scientists have previously warned the pristine waters of the Arctic are turning into a floating rubbish dump

Claire Wallerstein was part of the Sail Against Plastic team, a group of 15 Cornish scientists, artists, filmmakers and campaigners who recently returned from an expedition to the Arctic Circle.

She said: ‘We were very lucky to be invited to take part in this unique expedition, and had an amazing time seeing Arctic wildlife, stunning glaciers and experiencing 24-hour sunlight.

‘However, it was also a very sobering experience to see just how much plastic is making its way to this incredibly remote and apparently pristine environment.’

The aim of the trip was to research the impact of plastics on the marine environment just 600 miles (960km) from the North Pole. 

‘What we found on the beaches was sadly not so very different from what we find back home’, Ms Wallerstein said. 

‘There was plenty of fishing waste, but the saddest thing was just how much of the waste blighting the Arctic is the same old disposable detritus of our daily lives – plastic bottles, cotton bud sticks, cigarette ends, wet wipes, polystyrene and food packaging.’

The siblings were spotted with their mother (pictured) on the icy coast of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago about halfway between the mainland and North Pole

The siblings were spotted with their mother (pictured) on the icy coast of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago about halfway between the mainland and North Pole

The black plastic stands out against the seemingly spotless landscape as the youngsters paw at it, before putting it in their mouths. One of the densest areas of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world’s seas has been discovered north of Norway

The black plastic stands out against the seemingly spotless landscape as the youngsters paw at it, before putting it in their mouths. One of the densest areas of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world’s seas has been discovered north of Norway

Svalbard is hundreds of miles from continental Europe and has a population of about 2,500, yet researchers navigating the freezing waters found plastic waste wherever they went

Svalbard is hundreds of miles from continental Europe and has a population of about 2,500, yet researchers navigating the freezing waters found plastic waste wherever they went

The aim of the trip was to research the impact of plastics on the marine environment just 600 miles (960km) from the North Pole. Fishing nets are a big source of plastic pollution on the island of Svalbard

The aim of the trip was to research the impact of plastics on the marine environment just 600 miles (960km) from the North Pole. Fishing nets are a big source of plastic pollution on the island of Svalbard

HOW MUCH PLASTIC IS IN THE ARCTIC?

The pristine waters of the Arctic are turning into a floating rubbish dump – posing a threat to marine life, scientists warn.

One of the densest areas of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world’s seas has been discovered north of Norway and Russia.

Miles from civilisation, the amount of plastic waste in the Barents Sea – on the margins of the Arctic Ocean – has risen almost 20-fold in just ten years.

The detritus, which included plastic bags and fishing nets, was discovered more than 8,000ft below the water’s surface.

The litter was logged at two polar research stations between Greenland and the Svalbard archipelago – found half way between Norway and the North Pole.

The data was recorded by researchers from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Research Institute and published in the journal Deep-Sea Research I.

In one area, the amount of waste had risen from 346 pieces per square kilometre in 2004 to 6,333 in 2014.

Scientists now fear the region has become one of the world’s biggest floating rubbish dumps, alongside other zones in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. 

Fishing nets are a big source of plastic pollution on the Arctic island of Svalbard, with an estimated 80 per cent of plastic rubbish coming from fishing.

The group sailed aboard a tall ship named the Blue Clipper, spending 10 days sampling the sea, air and beaches around the isolated coasts of Svalbard.

Although twice the size of Belgium, Svalbard’s human population is outnumbered by polar bears.

Ironically, one picture captured by the group shows a team member holding a discarded plastic bag with the logo of a polar bear and the word Svalbardbutikken – a supermarket on the island.

The group trawled for microplastics and large floating plastics in the water.

They also tested the air for microplastic fibres, listened for underwater noise pollution, and did beach cleans.

Although twice the size of Belgium, Svalbard's human population is outnumbered by polar bears. 'What we found on the beaches was sadly not so very different from what we find back home', Claire Wallerstein said

Although twice the size of Belgium, Svalbard’s human population is outnumbered by polar bears. ‘What we found on the beaches was sadly not so very different from what we find back home’, Claire Wallerstein said

Ironically, one picture captured by the group shows a team member holding a discarded plastic bag with the logo of a polar bear and the word Svalbardbutikken - a supermarket on the island

Ironically, one picture captured by the group shows a team member holding a discarded plastic bag with the logo of a polar bear and the word Svalbardbutikken – a supermarket on the island

The group trawled for microplastics and large floating plastics in the water. They also tested the air for microplastic fibres, listened for underwater noise pollution, and did beach cleans

The group trawled for microplastics and large floating plastics in the water. They also tested the air for microplastic fibres, listened for underwater noise pollution, and did beach cleans

The team found plastics on beaches at every site they surveyed, including some that must have travelled long distances. Flora Rendell-Bhatti, a researcher from the University of Exeter, said: 'As plastic pollution breaks down it is harder to identify the sources of the fragments and fibres by eye'

The team found plastics on beaches at every site they surveyed, including some that must have travelled long distances. Flora Rendell-Bhatti, a researcher from the University of Exeter, said: ‘As plastic pollution breaks down it is harder to identify the sources of the fragments and fibres by eye’

The team found plastics on beaches at every site they surveyed, including some that must have travelled long distances.

Flora Rendell-Bhatti, a researcher from the University of Exeter, said: ‘As plastic pollution breaks down it is harder to identify the sources of the fragments and fibres by eye.

‘Our microplastic net sampled the surface waters in areas where there is currently little research.

‘Once the samples are analysed back in the UK, this data will indicate the levels of microplastic pollution in Arctic waters around Svalbard.’

With currents reaching Svalbard from both the Atlantic and Siberia, debris can arrive from far away.  Pictured are 532 cigarette ends collected from an Arctic beach in Svalbard

With currents reaching Svalbard from both the Atlantic and Siberia, debris can arrive from far away. Pictured are 532 cigarette ends collected from an Arctic beach in Svalbard

Local beach cleaners have reportedly found plastic waste traceable even to Florida. The group said this was inevitably having an impact on Arctic wildlife

Local beach cleaners have reportedly found plastic waste traceable even to Florida. The group said this was inevitably having an impact on Arctic wildlife

The team spent a few days in Svalbard's capital Longyearbyen after the expedition to find out about the initiatives under way to clean up hazardous litter from the island's remote beaches. Pictured are researchers trawling for plastics in Svalbard

The team spent a few days in Svalbard’s capital Longyearbyen after the expedition to find out about the initiatives under way to clean up hazardous litter from the island’s remote beaches. Pictured are researchers trawling for plastics in Svalbard

The group sailed aboard a tall ship named the Blue Clipper, spending 10 days sampling the sea, air and beaches around the isolated coasts of Svalbard

The group sailed aboard a tall ship named the Blue Clipper, spending 10 days sampling the sea, air and beaches around the isolated coasts of Svalbard

With currents reaching Svalbard from both the Atlantic and Siberia, debris can arrive from far away.

Local beach cleaners have reportedly found plastic waste traceable even to Florida.

The group said this was inevitably having an impact on Arctic wildlife.

According to the researchers, almost 90 per cent of fulmars – a white seabird related to the albatross – around the island have been found to have plastic in their guts, with an average of 15 pieces per animal.

The team spent a few days in Svalbard’s capital Longyearbyen after the expedition to find out about the initiatives under way to clean up hazardous litter from the island’s remote beaches.

According to the researchers, almost 90 per cent of fulmars - a white seabird related to the albatross - around the island have been found to have plastic in their guts, with an average of 15 pieces per animal. Pictured is beach cleaning in Svalbard

According to the researchers, almost 90 per cent of fulmars – a white seabird related to the albatross – around the island have been found to have plastic in their guts, with an average of 15 pieces per animal. Pictured is beach cleaning in Svalbard

The team spent a few days in Svalbard's capital Longyearbyen after the expedition to find out about the initiatives under way to clean up hazardous litter from the island's remote beaches (pictured)

The team spent a few days in Svalbard’s capital Longyearbyen after the expedition to find out about the initiatives under way to clean up hazardous litter from the island’s remote beaches (pictured)

Claire Wallerstein was part of the Sail Against Plastic team, a group of 15 Cornish scientists, artists, filmmakers and campaigners who returned from the expedition to the Arctic Circle

Claire Wallerstein was part of the Sail Against Plastic team, a group of 15 Cornish scientists, artists, filmmakers and campaigners who returned from the expedition to the Arctic Circle

WHY DO POLAR BEARS NEED ICE TO SURVIVE?

Loss of ice due to climate change has a direct impact on the ability of polar bears to feed and survive.

The bears need platforms of ice to reach their prey of ringed and bearded seals. Some sea ice lies over more productive hunting areas than others.

Like other predators at the top of the food chain, polar bears have a low reproductive rate. One or two cubs are born in midwinter and stay with their mother for two years. 

Consequently, females breed only every three years. The bears don’t reproduce until they are five or six years old.

From late fall until spring, mothers with new cubs den in snowdrifts on land or on pack ice. They emerge from their dens, with the new cubs, in the spring to hunt seals from floating sea ice.

Simply put, if there isn’t enough sea ice, seals can’t haul out on the ice, and polar bears can’t continue to hunt. 

End of summer measurements of sea ice in the Arctic in September revealed that the region has hit the eighth lowest extent in modern record keeping.

Satellite data showed the Arctic reached its yearly lowest extent on September 13, at 1.79 million square miles (4.64 million square kilometres).

While the Arctic hits its summertime minimum around this time every year, the experts say the extent has been decreasing rapidly as a result of climate change, seeing dramatic declines since the late 1970s.

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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