Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Service Releases Stock Assessment Reports on Polar Bears, Walrus

June 18, 2009


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has prepared draft revised marine mammal stock assessment reports (SARs) for the two stocks of polar bear and the Pacific walrus in Alaska. The purpose of SARs is to identify marine mammal stocks most affected by interactions with commercial fisheries. These reports are periodically updated to reflect the most current information and the draft reports are available for public review and comment. The public comment period will run for 90 days following the June 18th publication in the Federal Register. Interested parties may contact the Marine Mammals Management Office, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503 for copies of the reports, or can view them online at: (for the walrus stock) and (for the polar bear stocks).

Stock assessments use the best available scientific information to describe the geographic range, minimum population estimate, current population trend, annual human-caused mortality and serious injury, and commercial fisheries interactions for each marine mammal stock. There are six marine mammal stocks in Alaska that fall under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service; of these six, the Service previously updated the SARs for the three northern sea otter stocks in 2008. The draft SARs found that polar bear and walrus stocks have minimal commercial fisheries interaction.

Other significant management actions for polar bear and Pacific Walrus unrelated to SARs include review and classifications under the Endangered Species Act. On May 15, 2008, the Service published a notice in the Federal Register designating the polar bear, including the Southern Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea stocks, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service determined, at that time, that polar bear habitat—principally sea ice—is declining throughout the species’ range, the decline is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, and the loss threatens the species throughout all of its range. Simultaneous with this listing the Service also published an Interim Final Rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that provides for management of the species; it was subsequently replaced by a Final Special Rule on December 16, 2008.

On February 7, 2008 the Service received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list the Pacific walrus as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The basis for the petition is habitat loss (loss of sea ice) due to climate change. The Service is reviewing the merits of the petition and, in compliance with a court-approved settlement agreement, anticipates publishing a 90-day finding on the merits of the petition in the Federal Register by September 10, 2009.

Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.

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