Thursday, May 11, 2006

Walruses Now Endangered Species in Canadian Arctic?

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) claims that the walrus is now a species of special concern and its over-hunting may be the cause. The Canadian federal committee, which met in April to consider the health of different species in Canada, estimates there may be fewer than than 15,000 walruses left in the Canadian Arctic.

Dr. Andrew Trites, who co-chairs the marine mammal specialist group for COSEWIC, said the populations seem to be particularly low in the southeast part of Hudson Bay and in Baffin Bay. "We're concerned about that, and we're basically letting people of Nunavut and people of Canada know that things are not all well with walrus," he said.

However, Joe Tigullaraq, the chair of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, said he's worried about the way the COSEWIC is lumping together all walrus populations that range from the Arctic down to the province of Nova Scotia. "The populations that are actually very healthy will be treated the same way as the populations that are in trouble," he said. "That's a problem in itself."

The new designation for the walrus by COSEWIC will not mean changes to hunting quotas, but Trites said research needs to be done to determine if hunting is happening at sustainable levels. "Numbers killed are fairly low as you look around the Arctic," he said. "And so, while no single person is taking too many, the sum collectively, they all add up."

Trites said the COSEWIC will re-examine the status of the walrus as updated statistics come in. If further research proves the walrus is in trouble, its status could be changed to threatened or endangered.

COSEWIC meets every April to declare the status of all species reviewed on Canada's official list of endangered species. There are now 529 species in various risk categories, including 206 endangered; 135 threatened; 153 special concern; 22 extirpated species (no longer found in the wild) and 13 extinct.

For some excellent Walrus Inuit Carvings, see Free Spirit Gallery.

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