WAL­RUS

Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Inspirational Images Of 25 Ocean Species Under Thr - Text & Pho­tos by Chris­tian Vizl ASIA DIVE EXPO (ADEX 2014, 2019 SPEAKER)

From the 18th cen­tury to the early 20th cen­tury, Amer­i­can and Eu­ro­pean seal­ers and whalers ex­ploited the wal­rus pop­u­la­tion in the At­lantic to the brink of ex­tinc­tion, with the num­bers of wal­ruses in the Arc­tic drop­ping pre­cip­i­tously. To­day, with mea­sures in­tro­duced to reg­u­late har­vest­ing, pop­u­la­tions have re­bounded to a de­gree, but the sus­tain­abil­ity of an­nual har­vests in places such as Alaska, Rus­sia and Green­land re­mains ques­tion­able.

At the same time, con­ser­va­tion­ists are con­cerned about the ef­fect global warm­ing is hav­ing on habi­tats shared by wal­ruses. The re­duc­tion in the ex­tent and thick­ness of pack ice in re­cent years is threat­en­ing the long-term sur­vival of these an­i­mals, which ag­gre­gate on the ice dur­ing their re­pro­duc­tive pe­riod and rely on it when giv­ing birth. Re­duc­tion in sea ice has cre­ated ad­di­tional stress re­lated to feed­ing and has led to stam­pedes in crowded coastal ar­eas.

These be­he­moths might be con­sid­ered unglam­orous, and not es­pe­cially pho­to­genic, but they nev­er­the­less play a vi­tal role in their re­spec­tive ecosys­tems and their plight rightly de­serves our aware­ness.

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