Pacific Walrus Swimming in Limbo
On Tuesday, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the Pacific walrus deserves protection from the effects of climate change, but that other worse-off species will get the agency’s attention for now. In a bit of Noah’s-ark triage, the walrus will be added to the agency’s “warranted but precluded” list, the equivalent of a consolation prize in the endangered-species regime. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to have the walrus listed as threatened or endangered, some species have been on this close-but-no-cigar list for more than 20 years.
Like the polar bear, which was listed as a threatened species in 2008, the Pacific walrus depends on summer sea ice, which could disappear by 2030. But the walrus’ “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," according to Geoff Haskett, the service's Alaska region director.
Photo Credit: Joel Garlich-Miller/USFWS Alaska