Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Polar Bear And Walrus Populations In Trouble, Stock Assessment Report Suggests

Date:
June 19, 2009
Source:
Center for Biological Diversity
Summary:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released reports documenting the status of polar bears and Pacific walrus in Alaska. The reports confirm that polar bears in Alaska are declining and that Pacific walrus are under threat. Both species are imperiled due to the loss of their sea-ice habitat due to global warming, oil and gas development, and unsustainable harvest.

Herd of walrus on an ice floe in the Arctic.
Credit: iStockphoto/John Pitcher

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released reports documenting the status of polar bears and Pacific walrus in Alaska. The reports confirm that polar bears in Alaska are declining and that Pacific walrus are under threat. Both species are imperiled due to the loss of their sea-ice habitat due to global warming, oil and gas development, and unsustainable harvest.

“Polar bears and walrus are under severe threat, and unless we act rapidly to reduce greenhouse pollution and protect their habitat from oil development, we stand to lose both of these icons of the Arctic,” said Brendan Cumming, oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The reports, issued pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, summarize information on population abundance and trends of polar bears and walrus, threats to the species, and include calculations of human-caused mortality and whether that mortality is sustainable.

There are two polar bear populations in Alaska: a Southern Beaufort Sea stock, which is shared with Canada, and a Chukchi/Bering Sea stock which is shared with Russia. The Pacific walrus occurs in the Bering and Chukchi seas and is shared with Russia.

For the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear stock, the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated a minimum population of 1,397 bears and an annual human-caused mortality of 54 animals, well above the calculated sustainable rate of 22 animals per year. The stock assessment states that “the Southern Beaufort Sea population is now declining.”

For the Chukchi/Bering Sea polar bear stock, the Service estimated a minimum population of 2,000 bears and an annual human-caused mortality of 37 animals from Alaska and between 150-250 bears killed per year in Russia. The calculated sustainable rate of harvest is 30 animals per year. The stock assessment states that “the population is believed to be declining” and is “reduced based on harvest levels that were demonstrated to be unsustainable.”

For the Pacific walrus, the Service estimated a minimum population of 15,164 animals and an annual human-caused mortality of between 4,963 and 5,460 animals. The calculated sustainable rate of harvest is 607 animals per year.

Of the three population estimates, only the estimate for the well-studied Beaufort Sea polar bears is considered reliable. The Chukchi/Bering Sea polar bear population is based on incomplete data and could be an overestimate, while the walrus estimate is an underestimate as it only represents surveys in about half of the walrus habitat and does not account for walrus not counted because they were in the water rather than hauled out on ice.

“These reports publicly confirm what scientists have known for several years: Polar bear and walrus populations in Alaska are in trouble,” added Cummings. “And even if the population numbers are not precise, we know that without their sea-ice habitat they are likely doomed.”

The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that the secretary of the interior and the secretary of commerce prepare stock assessments for marine mammals. The assessments are meant to be used as the basis for management decisions such as permitting the killing or harassment of the animals from commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration, boating and shipping, and military exercises.

To ensure that decision-makers have the most accurate information, stock assessments are supposed to be revised every year for endangered marine mammals and every three years for other species. While the National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency responsible for whales, dolphins, and seals – has largely complied with this requirement, the Fish and Wildlife Service, responsible for polar bears, walrus, sea otters, and manatees, had completely ignored it.

In 2007 the Center sued the Wildlife Service and obtained a court order requiring the release of updated reports. Stock assessments for the Florida manatee were released last week, while sea otter reports were issued last year.

The polar bear is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act as a result of a petition and litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity. The Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to make a finding on the Center’s petition to protect the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act by September 10, 2009.

A copy of the stock assessments released June 18 can be found at http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/reports.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Center for Biological Diversity. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Center for Biological Diversity. "Polar Bear And Walrus Populations In Trouble, Stock Assessment Report Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618195804.htm>.
Center for Biological Diversity. (2009, June 19). Polar Bear And Walrus Populations In Trouble, Stock Assessment Report Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618195804.htm
Center for Biological Diversity. "Polar Bear And Walrus Populations In Trouble, Stock Assessment Report Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618195804.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Attacking Superbugs

Attacking Superbugs

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) — Two weapons hospitals can use to attack superbugs. Scientists in Ireland created a new gel resistant to superbugs, and a robot that can disinfect a room in minutes. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Annual Dog Surfing Competition Draws California Crowds

Annual Dog Surfing Competition Draws California Crowds

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) — The best canine surfers gathered for Huntington Beach's annual dog surfing competition, "Surf City, Surf Dog." Duration: 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins