Return funding to Round Island
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The Walrus Islands Sanctuary was created to protect haul out areas for the walrus that use them. It was actually the first sanctuary created in Alaska after we became a state. Walruses are very sensitive to disturbance and have been known to harm other walruses as they flee beaches in a panic. They have also been known to completely abandon haul out areas due to frequent disturbances. The spring and early summer can be critical out at Round Island as fishing vessels are prominent. If there are no staff stationed on the island the chances of increased disturbances are real.
Walruses are also at high risk of poaching. This has occurred on Round Island but thankfully, the staff was able to direct authorities and the poachers were prosecuted. Poaching of walruses happens across the state and I’m hearing now that soon we will have direct flights between Alaska and China. This could cause an increase in poaching as China seems set on collecting as much ivory as possible. It would be embarrassing to start seeing Alaskan walrus ivory ending up in China.
Walruses are a federally managed species and are being considered to be listed as an endangered species. Our state needs to do more to monitor and protect this species not less. We realize there is a great deal of walrus research going on in other parts of the state but this is an area that has been monitored for years, and not just for its walrus species. We feel there is a validity to the research and the assistance of the staff to other researchers that occurs on the islands.
From what I understand from Fish and Game, 20-30 permits for travel to Round Island have already been requested for the upcoming season. Traveling there takes a bit of planning in advance, and we need to get the funding back soon so that they can plan their trips and so that staff can be prepared for their summer at Round Island. Staff was removed early last summer and therefore it is no doubt a rather small sum of money, in the grand picture of the budget that would need to be redirected to Round Island for this fiscal year. We would hope that the next fiscal year would be budgeted in so that the sanctuary would be covered through the rest of summer.
Please look into this as soon as possible so that Round Island and the Walrus Islands Sanctuary can continue to be protected and safe for this year and for future generations.
Thank you for your time and consideration
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