The Walruses of Round Island
Finding Out if the Population is Heathy
This expedition has two components. The first is to get a film crew to Round Island to record the 14,000 or so Pacific Walruses that congregate there in the summer. The second is to provide a leading walrus researcher access to the herd.
Round Island is part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary, managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The film crew has applied for a permit and we believe it will be granted (but then, we believed it would be granted in early 2022, and it wasn't, postponing the expedition a year). Until it is granted, we thought it best not to publish the name of the film company, or of the scientist who will be joining us. When we can, we’ll put all the details here, including the research plan.
I can say now that this is going to be a challenging expedition. Round Island is in the north end of Bristol Bay, well above the Alaskan Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. The weather is unpredictable. There is no harbor or safe anchorage at the island. We’ll be up there for three weeks. And we will have to adhere closely to environmental protocol when approaching the herd: if the Endeavour or it shore boat were to spook the herd on the beach, thousands would rush to the water, trampling to death some of their own.
This research is important. In early 2011, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Pacific Walrus under the Endangered Species Act. The listing was deemed warranted but could not be granted due to “inadequate agency resources and other priorities.” The protection status of the Pacific walrus and its key habitat remain in limbo. In the meantime, researchers don’t even know if the population is rising or falling. That’s why Alaska Endeavour and its sponsors are supporting this expedition.
Dr. Lara Horstmann is the Chair of the Department of Marine Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She teaches a class, “Marine Mammals of the World,” and has given us permission to link to her 30-minute lecture on walruses here.
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Become a Sponsor
If you would like to support this particular expedition and be invited to join the scientists and crew in both a pre-expedition chatroom and a post-expedition live online event, please consider becoming a sponsor. Choose “Walruses of Round Island” from the menu on the subscription page, here.