Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

35,000 Walruses Invade Alaska Beach As Climate Change Melts Sea Ice

Climate
35,000 Walruses Invade Alaska Beach As Climate Change Melts Sea Ice

With Arctic sea ice coverage at its sixth lowest level recorded since 1978, Pacific walruses, dependent on ice surfaces for breeding and hunting, are coming ashore to find to find resting places.

Walruses cluster on a beach near Port Lay in northwest Alaska, unable to hunt for food at sea at ice melts. Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Record numbers of the walruses—a estimated 35,000—were spotted on a beach in northwest Alaska 700 miles northwest of Anchorage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The assessment was part of the agency's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey, which produced stunning photos of the walruses piled on the beach.

Summer temperatures cause the edge of the sea ice to recede north. Mothers and newborn babies ride the sea ice north, depending on the shallow water of the Chukchi Sea for feeding. But when the ice recedes as much as it did this year, they find themselves in waters too deep for them to dive to the bottom to hunt.

"The massive concentration of walruses onshore—when they should be scattered broadly in ice-covered waters—is just one example of the impacts of climate change on the distribution of marine species in the Arctic,” said Margaret Williams, managing director of the Arctic program at the World Wildlife Fund (WFF). “The sharp decline of Arctic sea ice over the last decade means major changes for wildlife and communities alike. Today’s news about the sea ice minimum is yet another reminder of the urgent need to ratchet down global greenhouse gas emissions—the main human factor driving massive climate change.”

This isn't the first such cluster of walruses on land in Alaska. They were first spotted in 2007, then again in 2009 and 2011, when an estimated 30,000 walruses appeared near the same beach where they were spotted this year. When clustered so closely, young walruses are vulnerable to stampedes caused by hunters, polar bears or airplanes. Last week, observers spotted about 50 carcasses of animals they think may have been killed in a stampede.

The walruses are also onshore across the strait in Russia, reports the WFF.  About 10,000 walruses have come ashore at Cape Schmidt in Chukotka, Russia, reports RIA Novosti World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia “polar bear patrol” project leader Viktor Nikiforov. There the walruses have taken over the entire eastern shore of the cape and started to scramble up the cliffs.

Without sea ice, walruses can't hunt or breed so they come ashore. Photo credit: U.S. Government Services

“The dramatic picture of walruses massing onshore is worth a thousand charts and graphs, reminding us that climate change is profoundly disrupting life on an epic scale in the fragile Arctic,” said Lou Leonard, vice president of climate change programs for WWF.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

New Satellite Maps Show World's Major Ice Caps Melting at Unprecedented Rate

Watch Climate Scientists Explore Melting Alaskan Glaciers on ‘Earth Focus'

U.S. Calls for Commercial Fishing Ban In Arctic As Sea Ice Melt Opens International Waters

Project goal: To create an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to leather, in this case using fungi.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plastic waste is bulldozed at a landfill. Needpix

The plastic recycling model was never economically viable, but oil and gas companies still touted it as a magic solution to waste, selling the American public a lie so the companies could keep pushing new plastic.

Read More Show Less

Trending

54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Maria Symchych-Navrotska / Getty Images

By Pamela Davis-Kean

With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.

Read More Show Less
A teenager reads a school English assignment at home after her school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 22, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately and that depression and suicide rates are increasing.

Read More Show Less
In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch