Walrus and Seals
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In recent years it has become known that walrus are losing haul-out habitat as the ice recedes north past the shallow shelf waters used by walrus for feeding. This has resulted in driving the walrus to find beach areas where they can haul out and rest conserving valuable energy, especially in light of the significant loss of easy access to traditional feeding areas. Since this trend is brand new, it is extremely problematic to try and identify what is likely to become critical haul-out habitat in the form of beach areas, especially in relation to planning for disturbances related to development projects. Thus, this trend should be followed and referred to in the planning processes and the maximum amount of undisturbed beach areas in known and potential walrus haul-outs should be considered in mitigation measures and other avoidance protocols related to beaches along the eastern shore of the Chukchi Sea.
Today the Department of the Interior (DOI) approved Royal Dutch Shell’s drilling plan for the Chukchi Sea—miles off the coast of Wainwright. Shell will receive two well permits to drill but these will not allow them to go into hydrocarbon zones, nor will it allow them to drill simultaneous wells. However, upon the return of the capping stack, held on the now broken Fennica, Shell may apply for yet another modified Application for Permit to Drill (APD).
The people of Alaska have used the Arctic Ocean for thousands of years for subsistence, fisheries and recreation in a sustainable way. Here Alaskans testify during the Salazar Hearings held in Anchorage, Alaska on April 14, 2009.
Thanks to All who stood up for the living Arctic Ocean at the first Fairbanks hearing in decades held by the offshore drilling agency. There is still time to send in written comments on Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193 EIS about risky offshore drilling proposed in this productive sea so vital to whales, walrus, birds, and people!
The Center for Biological Diversity submitted the 94-page Petition to List the Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) as a Threatened or Endangered Species under the Endangered Species Act (“Petition”) to the Secretary pursuant to Section 4 of the ESA. The Secretary received the Petition no later than February 8, 2008. Within 90 days of receipt of a Petition, the ESA requires the Secretary to determine, to the maximum extent practicable, whether the Petition presents substantial information indicating that listing “may be warranted,” and if so, to initiate a status review of the species. 15 U.S.C. § 1533(b)(3)(A). If the Secretary makes a positive 90-day finding, the ESA requires him to determine, within twelve months of the Petition being filed, whether the requested action (here, listing the Pacific walrus) is “warranted” and, if so, to publish a proposed rule listing the species. 15 U.S.C. § 1533(b)(3)(B).
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Walruses Food or rest—which to give up? This is the harsh choice faced by walruses as global warming accelerates melting of Arctic sea ice and lengthens the distance between shallow-water feeding grounds and ice floes where the animals haul out to rest and give birth. Newborn walrus calves must remain on the ice, safe from predation by orca whales, while their mothers shuttle between nursing the young and foraging on the sea-bottom. As climate change impacts shrink the sea ice pack, it puts the newborns’ safe haven farther away from the mothers’ food—meaning long, exhausting swims for the mothers, and more time alone for the calves.
Victory! Shell Oil Company announces that it is backing out of drilling in the Arctic Ocean for 2014! And Northern Center has major legal victory with Native Village of Point Hope and other Native and conservation allies over Chukchi Sea leasing.