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By Captain Budd Christman, NOAA Corps [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Will Arctic Drilling Harm Alaska’s Walrus Population?

Recent changes in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules may cause problems for Alaska’s walrus population and a handful of environmental activists are working to fight this.

According to UPI, several conservation groups– including Greenpeace, Sierra Club Natural Resources Defense Council and others– are now suing the federal government to try and put a stop to drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

Attorneys from Earthjustice argue that the walruses’ habitat is already in trouble and that the hunt for oil can further jeopardize the creatures. From their press release:

“The Arctic Ocean’s sea ice is rapidly melting due to climate change, creating dire consequences for Chukchi Sea walruses which depend on the ice for resting, raising their young, feeding, and avoiding predators. As a result of this melting, the walruses have been forced ashore in recent years. This year it happened again as 35,000 walruses crowded together on the Alaskan Arctic coast just a few weeks ago. Walruses must swim distances up to 100 miles from these coastal haulout areas to reach Chukchi feeding grounds to find the clams and other bottom species they need to survive. They are vulnerable to stampedes and trampling when forced to use coastal resting areas.”

The release goes on to point out that Shell Oil may begin drilling next year and that the projects may impact locations where walruses find food.