Rare Atlantic walruses have been spotted in the White Sea again after several hundreds of years of not appearing in the area after unlimited exploitation, research fellow at the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology Alexander Agafonov told TASS on the eve of the Walrus Day. “Atlantic walruses are still considered endangered species. Their population decreased initially because of intensive exploitation. For instance, they have not appeared in the White Sea since the 18th century.
However, our records indicate that walruses returned to the White Sea, which most likely signals a positive dynamic,” Agafonov said.
It is currently prohibited to hunt Atlantic walruses. When it comes to Pacific walruses whose population is currently estimated at 200,000 animals, only indigenous peoples are allowed to hunt them in limited quantities, Agafonov noted.
Ocean pollution does not directly affect populations of walruses but can lead to decrease in fish supplies for the rare animals, especially in case of technogenic disasters like large-scale oil spills, the expert said.
Senior research fellow at the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology Vasily Spiridonov noted that there is no worrisome information yet about populations of Atlantic walruses but it is important to watch them closely as no concrete data on their numbers is available. There is another problem that concerns mostly Pacific walruses – global warming forces them to migrate north as ice pads in the Bering Sea gradually melt. Thus, competition for ice pads in the north of the Pacific Ocean grows rather quickly, the expert explained.