I didn't initially intend to write more about the ocean's garbage, but the picture our staff member came home with made me change my mind. The image has gone from strength to strength in national newspapers in Norway and Sweden, and not without reason; it shows a female bear stuck in a long trawler net. Crewmembers from the Norwegian Polar Institute were called out as usual to stun the animal so that it could be rescued, but this bear eventually managed to get loose on its own. She fought for several hours with the 170-kilogram piece of fisheries debris that a transmitter on the bear's ear had gotten snagged in. Some are already throwing themselves into the debate and raging against the tagging of the polar bear. Finding a solution to the transmitter on the ear can certainly be discussed, but that is shooting at the wrong target.
The problem lies, of course, in fishing fleets tossing rubbish overboard, or not taking the trouble to collect nets when it is a struggle. In the past, we said "out of sight, out of mind," but today we know better. This has been documented ad nauseam and this polar bear – the second in a week that needed help to get loose from fisheries debris – was probably a reminder. When the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is angry I have no problem understanding it. There are some who belong in the doghouse, such as the fishing industry.
At the same time tons of fisheries garbage is being collected, it becomes almost strange to hear arguments from the same industry, the petroleum industry, and the thoughts about damaging the marine life. The industry itself should be carefully considered, both in Norway and elsewhere in the world, because rubbish is hardly just being shipped in Norway. Obviously there is hardly a universal problem in the fishing industry, but a minority can harm the entire industry. It is therefore prudent for the industry to adopt a humble attitude when confronted.
There were probably more participants at this year's clearing raid that got their eyes opened wide. That in itself is good. Svalbardposten was with the expedition to document it and create attitudes, and also watched as the female bear used its forepaws to pull itself over the snow. In tow she had a 30-to-40-meter-long trawler net of nylon. Nylon takes, according to scientists, 600 years to decompose.
So, one can reflect on how it might look in the High Arctic without the volunteer efforts and the annual surveys.