Walruses depend on sea ice as a platform for feeding and resting, and a warming Arctic is disrupting their normal patterns. In the past decade, earlier melting of sea ice in summer sea ice has forced abnormally large numbers of walruses ashore on the coasts of Russia and Alaska. These “haulouts” of up to 35,000 individuals can be deadly, particularly for walrus calves that are crushed in stampedes provoked by disturbances.
As sea ice melts, walrus populations will be exposed to more industrial activity, like shipping and oil and gas exploration. In addition to direct impacts like icebreaking ships and disturbance to walruses on shore, there’s an increased risk of oil spills. A WWF study found that oil spills on ice are virtually impossible to clean up.
Limited numbers of walrus are hunted in the United States, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. WWF supports up-to-date research into population trends to ensure the hunt remains sustainable.