WASHINGTON (CN) – Loss of sea ice due to climate change threatens the Pacific walrus, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says protecting it is precluded by funds going to species already on the list of Threatened and Endangered Species.
The agency’s finding is in response to a 2008 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity for an emergency listing of the species as endangered, under the Endangered Species Act.
The agency’s Director of the Alaska Region, Geoff Haskett, said that while the threats to the walrus are real, “Its greater population numbers and ability to adapt to land-based haulouts make its immediate situation less dire than those facing other species such as the polar bear.”
Pacific walrus must haul-out of the sea regularly, and rely on pack-ice between bouts of feeding and hauling out on land.
Pacific walrus are currently protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which offers similar protections to listing under the Endangered Species Act, including prohibitions on the harvest, import, export and interstate commerce of walrus or walrus products.
The agency will place the Pacific walrus on the list of candidate species for listing under the act. As of November, 2010 there were 251 species on the candidate list.