Greenpeace prompts new delay of Shell icebreaker

Greenpeace activists halted an icebreaker headed for the Arctic for a third time this week, in a bid to block plans by Anglo Dutch giant Shell to drill for oil in the region, the environmental group said Friday.

Greenpeace prompts new delay of Shell icebreaker

“Overnight, Greenpeace activists held up the Nordica icebreaker for three hours (in waters between Denmark and Germany) by circling the vessel with their rubber speed boats,” Therese Jacobson, who is responsible for Arctic issues at Greenpeace, told AFP.

The 14 activists from Sweden, Denmark, Germany and New Zealand then followed the Finnish icebreaker and around 9am caught up with it again.

“They are now painting on its hull,” Jacobsen said, adding that so far no attempts had been made to board the vessel again.

The Nordica is under contract to Shell with another icebreaker, the Fennica, to provide support for an operation to drill five exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas respectively, Greenpeace says.

Some 40 Greenpeace demonstrators were detained Tuesday after they tried to block the Nordic from leaving Helsinki, and on Thursday, Swedish police detained six more activists after they boarded the icebreaker in the middle of the Baltic Sea and chained themselves to the ship.

Nordica’s sister ship, the Fennica, left Helsinki in March.

Environmentalists have pointed to the vastly complicated task of drilling in the harsh Arctic environment, the difficulty of effectively cleaning up any spills in such conditions, and the risks posed to wildlife and native communities in the region’s fragile ecosystem.

Swedish Greenpeace activists have voiced their criticism of Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt for not doing enough during Sweden’s current presidency of the Arctic Council to prevent drilling for oil in sensitive areas of the Arctic.

In an opinion article published on The Local on Thursday, Bildt argued that a ban on drilling in the Arctic would be “irresponsible”.

“Considering how serious the situation is with respect to climate change, it’s regrettable that Sweden has a foreign minister who is in favour of drilling for oil in the Arctic,” Jacobson said in a statement.

“Do the Moderates and Carl Bildt want Sweden to give up ambitions to save the environment?”

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Norway and Sweden join forces to save Arctic fox

Norway and Sweden are combining forces to save the Arctic fox, which is under threat from climate change and the incursion into its territory of the common red fox, which is almost twice the size.

Norway and Sweden join forces to save Arctic fox
One of two Arctic fox cubs released at Dovrefjell in 2007. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/Scanpix

The two countries on Wednesday signed a declaration of intent,  envisaging close cooperation on joint action, transnational fieldwork and joint reporting.

“We are in agreement with the Swedish authorities that it is necessary to take measures to strengthen the Scandinavian arctic fox, so that we can reach a sustainable population,” Lars Andreas Lunde, Secretary of State at Norway's Ministry for Climate and Environment told Norway's NTB news agency

The Arctic fox is one of Scandinavia's most endangered species, with the number of individuals in the wild now numbering in the hundreds rather than the thousands.
The animals are highly dependent on access to small game such as rodents, with the population spiking in years where there are a lot of lemmings.
Climate change also presents a threat to the Arctic fox, as the common red fox is moving further north, competing for prey and in some cases killing arctic foxes and their cubs. 
Norway and Sweden both have breeding programmes aimed at bolstering the remaining population.
Arctic foxes are now being reintroduced into the Dovrefjell national park, where they have not been seen for the last ten to 15 years.
“Through years of dedicated work, primarily through selective breeding programmes for foxes, we have seen a positive development for the Arctic fox in Scandinavia. But the plight of the polar fox still a challenge, and there is still a need for action,” Lunde said.