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Soundings Archive

FWS Finds that the Pacific Walrus is Endangered or Threatened under the ESA, but lacks the Resources to Do Anything About It
On February 10, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that listing the Pacific walrus as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act is warranted. On the same day, FWS also found that designating critical habitat for the walrus under the ESA is warranted. In its Federal Register notice of these findings, however, FWS stated that further action on these findings is at this time precluded by "higher priority actions." FWS explained that

    "Upon publication of this 12-month petition finding, we will add Pacific walrus to our candidate species list. We will develop a proposed rule to list the Pacific walrus as our priorities allow. We will make any determination on critical habitat during development of the proposed listing rule. Consistent with section 4(b)(3)(C)(iii) of the Endangered Species Act, we will review the status of the Pacific walrus through our annual Candidate Notice of Review."
The FWS walrus findings respond to a listing petition and litigation filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. On May 18, 2009, a settlement agreement was approved in the case of Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (D. Alaska), requiring FWS to reach ESA findings on the walrus by specified deadlines.

In response to FWS' Federal Register notice of September 10, 2009, which requested information from the public, FWS received approximately 30,000 comments, including comments from the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, the State of Alaska, the Alaska North Slope Borough, the Eskimo Walrus Commission, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, the American Petroleum Institute, and many interested citizens.

FWS' walrus findings are based on the following conclusions:
    "In summary, we identify loss of sea ice in the summer and fall and associated impacts…and subsistence harvest…as the primary threats to the Pacific walrus in the foreseeable future. These conclusions are supported by the Bayesian Network models prepared by USGS and the [FWS]. Our…analysis determined that existing regulatory mechanisms are currently inadequate to address these threats. These threats are of sufficient imminence, intensity, and magnitude to cause substantial losses of abundance and an anticipated population decline of Pacific walrus that will continue into the foreseeable future."
  • Click here to read FWS' Federal Register notice
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