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Alaska Applauds Federal Decision Not to List Pacific Walrus

Juneau — The Alaska Department of Fish and Game concurs with a decision announced today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to list Pacific walrus as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

“We see this decision as an example of the ESA working as it was intended to,” said Bruce Dale, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.

Today’s announcement follows a “warranted but precluded” finding in 2011 that ESA listing for Pacific walrus was warranted due to several population threats. Action was not possible at that time due to higher priority listing actions. Both findings are in response to population status reviews conducted by the USFWS to address a petition filed in 2008 by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The State of Alaska disagreed with the 2011 finding because little evidence existed then — or now — to indicate Pacific walrus face extinction in the foreseeable future. Since then, increasing evidence indicates the animals will adjust to habitat changes predicted over the next half-century and likely longer, albeit at a lower population size. Today’s finding also reflects more recent data indicating overall threats to this population are at lower levels than previously predicted.

Existing regulatory programs such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act provide sufficient protections to Pacific walrus populations, Dale said. Listing the species under the ESA would have duplicated many of these provisions while creating additional and unnecessary regulatory burdens for a population of hundreds of thousands of animals.

“The Pacific walrus population is currently robust,” said Dale, “and we’re committed to ensuring the long-term persistence of Pacific walrus through continued research and monitoring to stay ahead of the need for additional protection.”