Community-based observations reveal new scientific information
May 11, 2011
Bristol Bay, Alaska
The finding from research conducted by the Aleut International Association, a permanent participant of the Arctic Council, showed that in 2009 and 2010 walrus harvest areas in The Walrus Island State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay, the eastern-most arm of the Bering Sea, have shifted. These findings from community-based observations are corroborated by other scientific reports but these are new data that pinpoint a food security problem.
The shift in walrus harvest locations is a direct result of changes in the timing of the walrus migration to the arctic. Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a report released by the Arctic Council in 2004, predicts that changes in harvested species’ ranges and availability could present serious challenges to food security for indigenous peoples of the arctic. This is an example where necessity dictates that hunters go further for the same food. Traveling further costs more in fuel and may be more dangerous. The shift in harvest locations documented in this research is an adaptive measure that hunters are taking.
Possible causes may include depletion of food, human disturbance, and climate change (changes in sea ice extent and warming seas).
These data could be used to inform policy makers for possible reassessment of walrus management in the area and for providing support to walrus harvesters as a climate change mitigation measure.
The research is part of the Bering Sea Sub Network (BSSN) funded by the US National Science Foundation under the Arctic Observing Network program and is a project of the Conservation Flora and Fauna Working Group of the Arctic Council.
Map 1. Density analysis of walrus harvest locations used over a person’s (n=22) lifetime including Round Island
Map 2. Density analysis of walrus harvest locations from September 2009 – August 2010 (n=11 subsistence harvesters)