More than 20 conservation groups representing millions of Americans sent a letter today urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reportedly has until the end of September to either begin the process of listing the imperiled species or withdraw its candidacy, based on the 2011 settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Tragically, the Pacific walrus is threatened by the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice caused by human-induced climate change.
“Strong federal protections are critical for the survival of the Pacific walrus, an iconic species whose homes are literally melting beneath them,” said Shaye Wolf, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With sea ice hitting record lows this year, it’s becoming harder for walruses to survive in their Arctic habitat. If the Trump administration doesn’t act, these animals face a truly dismal future.”
Last week thousands of Pacific walruses temporarily left the Arctic waters near Point Lay, Alaska due to declining sea-ice levels. This marks the earliest haul-out that the federal officials have ever seen, in a region that is warming twice as fast as the global average.
Scientists fear that haul-outs may result in more stampedes; which have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of walruses in recent years.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service knows the Pacific walrus is in trouble. The only thing preventing its protection is politics,” Wolf said in a release. “We hope officials do the right thing and get this majestic animal the protection it needs to survive.”
Studies have shown that the Endangered Species Act is 99 percent effective at preventing wildlife from going extinct.