Number of Walruses Hauled Out near Point Lay, Alaska, Swells to over 20,000
Just weeks before Arctic sea ice extent reaches a record or near-record annual low, observers estimate that over 20,000 walruses have hauled-out near Point Lay, Alaska. The aerial observers also have spotted dead walruses on their flights over the Chukchi Sea.
By 17 August, approximately 8,000 walruses were observed during a survey flight of the Chukchi Offshore Monitoring in Drilling Area (COMIDA) marine mammal aerial survey project (see 8,000 Walruses Congregate along Alaska Shoreline, Unable to Find Sea Ice Near Feeding Areas, WWF Climate Blog, 19 August). Another COMIDA flight two days later (19 August) reported [PDF] their numbers had grown to about 10,000 walruses (see photos below).
Above and below: During COMIDA flight 235 [PDF] on 19 August 2011, observers reported " Approximately 10,000 walruses were observed hauled out on land slightly north of Point Lay" (click on image for larger high resolution image). Source: Rebecca Shea (National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
Less than a week later, COMIDA observers on 24 August estimated that the number of walruses had doubled to roughly 20,000. They also reported seeing four dead walruses during that same flight over the Chukchi sea. Several dead walruses also were reported by observers on the 26 August flight and the 27 August flight.
Last year an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 walruses ultimately hauled-out near Point Lay. Arctic sea ice extent by 31 August 2011 had dropped well below 2010 levels and may drop below record 2007 levels for the date within days (see the decline as documented by IARC-JAXA Information System or by the National Snow and Ice Data Center).
WWF Climate Change Blog:
- Arctic Sea Ice Decline and its Impacts: Online Resources. WWF Climate Blog.
- Melting Sea Ice is Forcing Polar Bears to Swim Longer, Increasing Cub Mortality 07/20/2011
- Arctic Unravelling: Scientists Report on a Decade of Unprecedented Change in the Arctic. 4 May 2011.
- Faces of Climate Change, Video Documentary on the Disruptive Consequences of Climate Change on Alaska's Marine Ecosystems. 04/12/2011
- Video: Veteran Meteorologist Explains How a Warm Arctic is Disrupting Your Weather. 02/27/2011
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Pacific Walrus "warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act". 2/09/2011.
- Polar Bear Population in Canada's Western Hudson Bay Unlikely to Survive Climate Disruption. 02/08/2011.
- Arctic Sea Ice is Among World's Most Threatened Ecosystems. 01/19/2011.
- Polar Bears to Remain as Threatened Species. 01/19/2011
- Arctic Sees Second Lowest November Sea Ice Extent on Record, Favoring another Cold Season of Extremes in Mid-Latitudes. 12/06/2010
- Citing Threat of Climate Change, U.S. Designates Nearly 187,000 Square Miles as "Critical Habitat" for Polar Bears 11/24/2010
- Scientists Report that as Arctic Sea Ice Declines, Weather Impacts Spread into Northern Mid-Latitudes 10/21/2010
- Scientists Report that as Arctic Sea Ice Declines, Weather Impacts Spread into Northern Mid-Latitudes . 21 Oct 2010.
- Extinction: It's not just for Polar Bears anymore . WWF Climate Change Blog, 26 Sep 2010.