The fate of future endangered species could hinge on a semantic argument | Popular Science

Amelia Urry | Popular Science | 30/07/2018

Everyone agrees that the Pacific walrus is stressed. The large, tusked pinnipeds depend on floating sea ice to rest and give birth in the spring and summers, when the Goldilocks-sized not-too-thin, not-too-thick ice floes they require are becoming increasingly rare. But coming to a consensus on how the large marine mammals will react to that stress is less straightforward.

“While the Pacific walrus will experience a future reduction in availability of sea ice … we are unable to reliably predict the magnitude of the effect,” read the official Fish and Wildlife service finding in October 2017, explaining the decision not to list the species under the Endangered Species Act despite the service’s own 2011 assessment that it was threatened by climate change. The text continued: “We do not have reliable information showing that the magnitude of this change could be sufficient to put the subspecies in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.”