Alaska Science Center
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Walrus Tracking and Sea Ice Change in the Chukchi Sea
USGS Alaska Science Center researchers will attach 37 satellite radio-tags to walruses in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, July 12-26. The study is tracking the movement patterns and foraging behaviors of walruses within areas of offshore sea ice. The retreat of sea ice beyond the continental shelf in the past seven years represents a step change in the summer habitat for the Pacific walrus and our observations of their behavior under these conditions of extreme summer ice minimums is providing a glimpse into their potential response to future summertime sea ice loss. The loss of summer sea ice in the Chukchi Sea is also increasing opportunities for human activities in the Arctic, such as shipping and oil and gas activities. During the same cruise, USGS is collaborating with acoustic scientists to measure and characterize walrus call types and background ocean noise in the Chukchi Sea environment to address questions related to the effects of anthropogenic ocean noise on walrus behaviors. Information from walrus tracking and acoustic studies have be identified as high priority needs by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USGS DOI partners) for mitigating the impacts of human activities on walruses and issuing incidental takes under the National Environmental Policy and Marine Mammal Protection Acts.