The Pacific walrus will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Wednesday, leaving intact a necessary food source for some Alaskan communities.
The FWS considered the walrus a candidate species for listing after environmentalists petitioned to have the animal protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008. After years of studying the Pacific Walrus, agency researchers concluded the animal was in no danger of extinction for the foreseeable future.
“I am pleased with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to not add the Pacific walrus to the endangered or threatened species lists,” GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in a statement. “Their thorough review, driven by the best available data and science, found that the population of Pacific walrus is robust and healthy, and has proven that it can adapt to the changing conditions in the Arctic.”
The Pacific Walrus is a main source of food and supplies for several Alaskan communities. While listing the species under the ESA probably would not have interrupted subsistence hunting for the animal, the condition of the walrus is good news to Alaskans, Alaska Dispatch News reports.
“This decision will allow for the continued responsible harvest of Pacific walrus for subsistence and traditional uses by Alaska Natives,” Murkowski added.
Communities that have hunted the walrus for years played a direct role in researchers’ study of the species, and locals provided some knowledge that had “widespread application” to the walrus’ habitat.
“People who regularly interact with the environment through hunting, fishing, recreation, and commercial activities often have decades of experience and accumulated knowledge of the environment,” the FWS report said.
The FWS credited the walrus’ resilience and ability to adapt to melting sea ice with its strong survival.
“Our decision not to list the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act at this time is based on a rigorous evaluation of the best available science, which indicates the population appears stable, and the species has demonstrated an ability to adapt to changing conditions,” FWS principal deputy director Greg Sheehan said in a statement Wednesday.
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