The Obama administration yesterday announced it will not list the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the species is “warranted but precluded,” a delay in listing allowed by the ESA if the agency feels that other imperiled species are a higher priority.
This news comes at a bad time for the Arctic mammal. Climate change is causing sea ice in both the Bering and Chukchi Seas to disappear at an alarming rate, diminishing important Pacific walrus habitat and availability of prey and increasing the chances of deadly stampedes. And shrinking sea ice isn’t the only thing walruses have to worry about. Foreseeable harm to walrus populations also includes increased shipping, potential oil spills and ocean acidification, which will further reduce the walrus’ prey base of clams and other shellfish.
Bob Irvin, senior vice president of conservation programs for Defenders said, “By melting Arctic sea ice on which Pacific walrus and other wildlife depend, climate change is stacking the deck against their ability to survive. As Pacific walrus habitat shrinks, it becomes harder to find food and the animals are forced to crowd together in fewer areas, increasing the risk of deadly stampedes. With all of these threats, the life of a Pacific walrus is pretty tough. Today’s decision just made it tougher, failing to provide the help Pacific walrus will need to survive the impacts of global climate change.”
What Defenders Is Doing
Defenders is co-sponsoring a Pacific walrus remote camera monitoring project, placing five cameras at a walrus haulout location. The goal of the project is to record haulout disturbances and what the causes are and how long they last.