#LoveSpecies Nominee: Walrus
Nominated by: Ocean Conservancy
Why do you love it?
When you think of the walrus, you might picture large, prominent tusks and handsome, bristly whiskers, but there’s so much more to these Arctic giants. Walruses are social animals, often found bellowing and snorting in herds up to a thousand large. Like us, walruses live complex social lives, thriving off of interactions with one another. And even more like us, walrus truly love to eat. When not lounging on Arctic sea ice, or resting on dry land for breeding season, walruses can be found diving for food. They scan the ocean floor with their whiskers, in search of shellfish, cephalopods and pretty much anything else. The walrus, capable of living in some of the coldest places on Earth, is an iconic and essential piece of the Arctic marine ecosystem. We think the walrus is an incredible, social and misunderstood species that deserves some well needed time in the spotlight, and we hope you agree!
What are the threats to the walrus?
Perhaps the greatest threat to the walrus is the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic, due to rising global temperatures. Not only do walrus depend on sea ice as a crucial habitat and resting platform, but retreating sea ice also opens the Arctic to potentially harmful industrial activity, like commercial shipping and risky oil and gas drilling. Increased activity in this fragile ocean space could result in added pollution, more frequent ship strikes on marine mammals and an increased risk of chronic and catastrophic oil spills that could cause irreversible damage to the marine ecosystem that walruses depend on.
What are the Ocean Conservancy doing to save it?
Everything we can! For years, Ocean Conservancy has worked to protect the vital Arctic habitats of the walrus. From protecting Hanna Shoal—a vital walrus habitat—from oil and gas leasing, to working to ensure that Arctic leasing was not included in the five-year leasing program, Ocean Conservancy has long been active in the fight against risky offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Most recently, our initiatives included supporting tribal efforts to secure important protections for the Bering Sea and the Bering Strait through the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. However, our work is far from done, and we will continue to work with government leaders, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders to advocate for sustainable solutions to ensure a healthy and prosperous environment in the Arctic.