Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 4, 2017

Contact: Shaye Wolf, (510) 844-7101,

Trump Administration Denies Protection to Pacific Walrus Imperiled by Climate Change

SAN FRANCISCO— The Trump administration today denied Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific walrus, which is imperiled by climate change. Today’s denial reverses an Obama administration decision that the Pacific walrus deserves protection because of the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice.

“This disgraceful decision is a death sentence for the walrus,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Walruses face extinction from climate change, and denying them critical protections will push them closer to the edge. The Trump administration’s reckless denial of climate change not only harms the walrus and the Arctic, but puts people and wildlife everywhere in danger.”   

In 2008 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act because of the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice that it needs for survival. In 2011 the Service determined that the Pacific walrus deserves protection under the Act, but placed the walrus on the “candidate” waiting list for protection. Due to legal action by the Center, the Service was required to make a decision on protecting the walrus by September 30, 2017.

The Pacific walrus, which inhabits Arctic waters off Alaska, needs sea ice for giving birth, nursing and resting. Over the past decade, climate change has caused summer sea ice to disappear from the walrus’s shallow foraging grounds in the Chukchi Sea. Without summer sea ice for resting, walrus mothers and calves have been forced to come ashore, where they have limited access to food and young walruses are vulnerable to being trampled to death or attacked by predators. 

In early August thousands of Pacific walruses were forced ashore near Point Lay, Alaska, when sea ice disappeared — the earliest haul-out event federal officials have documented. A survey of the area on Sept. 11 found 64 dead walruses, most of them less than a year old, which were likely trampled to death in a stampede.

Arctic sea-ice extent has hit numerous record lows this year. Summer sea ice is half as thick and extensive as it was just a few decades ago. Without strong action to reduce carbon pollution, scientists project that summer sea ice will disappear in the next decade or two.

On April 28 President Trump issued an executive order attempting to undo President Obama’s permanent ban on new offshore oil and gas drilling in the vast majority of the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Trump’s order is particularly dangerous for the Pacific walrus because it would lead to dramatically increased risks of oil spills and a worsening of the climate crisis.

An oil spill in remote and inaccessible Arctic waters would be impossible to clean up. The federal government has concluded that there was a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill if offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea moved forward under even a single large lease sale.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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