Alaska Delegation Welcomes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Decision on Pacific Walrus

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, today issued the following statement after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that the Pacific walrus will not be designated as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). New data shows that the Pacific walrus has adapted to certain threats, including loss of sea ice, and is not experiencing reductions in population. As a result, USFWS concluded that the population is sustainable and healthy.

“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,” Murkowski said. “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. This decision will allow for the continued responsible harvest of Pacific walrus for subsistence and traditional uses by Alaska Natives.”

“I welcome the USFWS’s determination to manage wildlife through measurable and scientific methods. Responsibly harvesting and utilizing Pacific walrus is a traditional and vital subsistence activity for Alaska Natives,” Sullivan said. “This sound determination from the Service will ensure that these resources can continue to be accessed and managed in the future.”

“I welcome this action by the USFWS, a decision that recognizes the health and stability of Alaska's walrus population and ignores the extreme political pressures often associated with new Endangered Species Act listings,” Young said. “There are often numerous unintended consequences associated with new ESA designations, including those that undermine stewardship done at the state, local and tribal level and ignore the needs and firsthand knowledge of local communities. We've seen it before, where field-tested and empirical data was ignored in favor of the environmentalist agenda to limit resource development in Alaska. I'm glad to see that didn't happen this time.”

Last week, the Alaska delegation sent a letter to the Acting Director of the USFWS, Greg Sheehan, requesting that the Pacific walrus not be added to the endangered or threatened species lists. In 2008, a petition was filed with USFWS to consider listing the Pacific walrus as endangered or threatened, and it has been a candidate for protection under the ESA since 2011.

The Alaska State Department of Fish and Game played a critical role in ensuring the sustainable health of the species. The Pacific walrus will continue to receive protection under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Alaska Natives will still be able to harvest Pacific walrus for subsistence uses.   

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