FAA Goes to Bat for Alaskan Walruses Being Buzzed by Pilots

  • Aviation agency urges pilots not to buzz walruses in Alaska
  • Declining sea ice prompts walruses to seek refuge on beaches

U.S. aviation regulators took a break Tuesday from their work overseeing safety in the nation’s skies to push protections for Alaskan walruses.

Reacting to concerns that low-flying planes may disturb female walruses and their young, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a reminder to pilots that harassing the blubbery sea creatures is a violation of U.S. law.

The FAA “is working to address concerns that low-flying aircraft could cause walruses to stampede and kill their pups or harm humans on the Alaska Peninsula,” it said in a release posted on its website.

A decline in the amount of Arctic sea ice has prompted packs of walruses to temporarily leave the water and seek refuge on beaches, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That has prompted concerns that sightseers would fly over the beaches to watch them, according to FAA.

While the agency stopped short of issuing an outright flight ban, it said it would include notations on maps it issues about walrus habitat to warn pilots that harassing walruses is a violation of the law.

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