Quantcast
Animals
U.S. Geological Survey

Loss of Arctic Sea Ice Causes Earliest Pacific Walrus Haul Out Ever

Hundreds of Pacific walruses have hauled out of Arctic waters near Alaska's Point Lay due to declining sea ice levels, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday. It's the earliest haul out the agency has ever seen, and scientists fear a repeat of stampedes that have killed hundreds of walruses in recent years.

Loss of sea ice from climate change is a major reason why the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the federal government to protect Pacific walruses under the Endangered Species Act. A final listing decision from Fish and Wildlife is expected within the next month.


"This early haul out shows that Pacific walruses are in terrible trouble," said Emily Jeffers, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney. "If we're going to save these amazing animals, the Trump administration has to give them the protections they need and stop pushing for dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic."

President Trump's decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and consider opening up the Arctic to offshore oil drilling would exacerbate sea ice loss and other threats to Pacific walruses. The Wildlife Service has previously said the Pacific walrus deserves listing under the Endangered Species Act, but it didn't have the resources to proceed with listing, prompting the Center for Biolofical Diversity's lawsuit and the imminent listing decision.

Arctic sea ice extent, on which the Pacific walrus so heavily relies, hit record lows during fall 2016 and winter 2017, and sea ice in the Chukchi Sea off Point Lay retreated at a record rate this May. The sea ice is expected to begin increasing with the end of the summer season, although the National Snow and Ice Data Center cautioned that levels could continue to fall again, as happened in 2010 and 2005.

Local villagers in Point Lay are helping protect the walruses and cautioning the general public against doing anything to scare or disrupt them. Mass walrus haul-outs were first observed in 2007, when Arctic sea-ice extent dropped 1 million square miles below average—losing an area the size of Alaska and Texas combined.

"Trump's hostility to conservation laws and threat to open up the Arctic put Pacific walruses under siege," Jeffers said. "We need to protect this vital, vulnerable region before it's too late."

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
An oil train moves through California's Central Valley. In 2009, 10,000 tank cars transported crude oil in the entire U.S. This one terminal alone proposed bringing in 73,000 cars a year. Elizabeth Forsyth / Earthjustice

Victory: Concerned Citizens and Environmental Groups Stop Oil Train in Its Tracks

A coalition of concerned citizens, environmental groups, and health and safety advocates successfully challenged the approval of a massive refinery and rail project that will further harm air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and subject residents in several states to the catastrophic risks of a derailment involving scores of tanker cars filled with explosive Bakken crude oil.

The Alon Bakersfield Refinery Crude Flexibility Project, approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, would have enabled the refinery to unload crude from more than 200 tanker train cars per day, allowing it to import up to 63.1 million barrels of crude oil per year. A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Association of Irritated Residents, Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club claimed that Kern County's certification of an environmental impact report (EIR) failed to meet its legal duty to fully assess the project's risks and disclose them to the public. The court agreed.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Keystone Pipeline Permit Could Be Revoked After Last Week's 210,000-Gallon Spill

TransCanada's permit to operate its Keystone tar sands pipeline in South Dakota could be revoked if an investigation into last week's 210,000-gallon leak determines that the pipeline operator violated its license, Reuters reported.

State regulators expressed concern that the Nov. 16 spill in Marshall County was not the first from the controversial pipeline.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Corn farms in Elgin Nebraska, on the eastern edge of the Ogallala aquifer. Spirit of America / Flickr

Why These 8 States Could Soon Form the 'Great American Desert'

One of the world's largest underground bodies of fresh water—the Ogallala aquifer—is quickly shrinking, threatening the livelihoods of farmers in eight U.S. states.

Farmers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota are overexploiting the aquifer beneath an American breadbasket, threatening an estimated $35 billion in annual crops. Agricultural wells are pulling out water faster than rainfall can recharge it—federal data shows the aquifer shrank twice as fast in the past six years as compared to the previous 60.

Keep reading... Show less
African elephant. USFWS

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration Over New Elephant and Lion Trophy Policies, Still in Effect Despite Trump's Tweets

The Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Trump administration Monday for allowing U.S. hunters to import elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe. The lawsuit aims to protect animals and resolve confusion created by the administration's contradictory announcements in recent days.

The suit comes days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abruptly reversed an Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports based on catastrophic elephant population declines. Fish and Wildlife also recently greenlighted lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe, despite the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Below the Mackinac bridge runs Enbridge Line 5, transporting 23 Million gallons of oil and liquid gas every day. Conor Mihell

Four Questions About the New Line 5 Pipeline Report

By Beth Wallace

In June, the state of Michigan released a draft report on alternatives to Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) per day along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The draft report, written by Dynamic Risk, was met with heavy criticism from all sides, and the National Wildlife Federation joined with many others to suggest numerous and substantive changes. On Nov. 20, the final alternatives report was released to the public. As per an agreement with the state to obtain funding for the report, Enbridge has had five days to review this report before it is released publicly.

Keep reading... Show less
USDA

Thanksgiving Dinner Is Cheapest in Years, But Are Family Farms Paying the Price?

By Sarah Reinhardt

Last week, the Farm Bureau released the results of its annual price survey on the cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner. The grand total for a "feast" for 10 people, according to this year's shoppers? About 50 dollars ($49.87, if you want to be exact). That includes a 16-pound turkey at $1.40 per pound, and a good number of your favorite sides: stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

After adjusting for inflation, the Farm Bureau concluded that the cost of Thanksgiving dinner was at its lowest level since 2013. Let's talk about what that means for farmers, and for all of us.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Would More People Ride the Bus if It Looked and Felt Like a Train?

By Jeff Turrentine

It moves through city thoroughfares, towering above automobile traffic. It makes frequent stops to pick up and drop off passengers. It has places to sit, places to stand, and—yes—rubber-tired wheels that go 'round and 'round, all through the town.

But don't call it a bus. It's a "trackless electric train."

Keep reading... Show less

Electric Car Sales Surge 63% Globally

Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain momentum on the world market.

Global sales of electric and hybrid cars are 63 percent higher than the same quarter last year, and up 23 percent from the second quarter, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!