Fish and Wildlife Service Must Decide on Endangered Species Act Listing Soon
SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation groups representing millions of Americans urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act. The letter from more than 20 organizations comes as the Service has until the end of the 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.
The Pacific walrus — which the Service has previously said warrants listing under the Act, although it has failed to do so — 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 hauled out of Arctic waters near Point Lay, Alaska due to declining sea-ice levels. This is the earliest haul-out that federal officials have ever seen, in a region that’s warming twice as fast as the global average. Scientists fear that haul-outs may result in more stampedes that have previously killed 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. “We hope officials do the right thing and give this majestic animal the protections it needs to survive.”
Groups signing the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Mission Blue, Endangered Habitats League, Moloka’i Community Service Council, Klamath Forest Alliance, Wildcoast, Blue Sphere Foundation, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, 350 Louisiana – New Orleans, WildEarth Guardians, Ocean Defenders Alliance, World Animal Protection, Oceanic Conservation Society, Environmental Protection Information Center, Ocean Conservation Alliance, San Francisco Baykeeper, Animal Welfare Institute, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Louisiana Bucket Brigade.