The Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) announced (PDF) that despite a finding (PDF) that sufficient scientific and commercial data exist to warrant protecting the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), an official rulemaking to propose that protection will be postponed because of the need to address “other higher priority species.”  Instead, the Service will review the walrus’ status as a candidate species annually.  The finding confirms claims made by the federal Marine Mammal Commission and a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity that the walrus is threatened by the loss of sea ice in its arctic habitat due to climate change (see earlier post).  Although the Pacific walrus will not receive protection under the ESA, the species is currently protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which affords protections similar to those under the ESA and includes prohibitions on the harvest, import, export, and interstate commerce of the walrus or walrus products.