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Without Arctic Sea Ice, Thousands of Walruses Forced to Climb Ashore in Alaska


Rapid warming of the Arctic has resulted in a dramatic decline in the extent of sea ice. Once the ice disappears from the feeding areas in late summer or early fall, the walruses must swim long distances to reach the Russian and Alaskan shorelines where conditions are far less favorable and more hazardous than on the ice.

“The dramatic picture of walruses massing onshore is worth a thousand charts and graphs, reminding us that climate change is profoundly disrupting life on an epic scale in the fragile Arctic,” said Lou Leonard, vice president of climate change programs for WWF. “Arctic sea ice has sharply declined over the last decade, threatening Arctic communities and wildlife. This is another alarm bell warning that global greenhouse gas emissions must begin a steep long-term decline within this decade to avoid far more disastrous consequences. Governments have ample opportunities to act starting with next week’s negotiations in Montreal on international aviation pollution.” (Click here to view the full article)

These newly published photos taken on September 12 and 14 by the Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) Project and obtained by World Wildlife Fund, show up to 4,000 walruses that have hauled out along the coast near Point Lay, Alaska. The number of walruses on land is likely to swell in coming days and weeks.

Federal scientists estimate 2,000–4,000 Pacific walruses swam ashore near Point Lay, Alaska on September 14. As sea ice extent and volume declines due to climate change, there are fewer areas of ice over shallow waters substantial enough to support large numbers of walruses. The walruses are forced to swim sometimes great distances to haulouts along the shore where they risk injury or death from nutritional stress, stampedes, and close contact with other walruses.


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