The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission


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Walruses inhabit the waters of two NAMMCO member states: Greenland and Norway. Norway does not presently permit the harvest of walruses in its territory. West Greenland walrus stocks inhabit both Greenlandic and Canadian waters; therefore management is a shared responsibility between Greenland and Canada.


In Greenland, walrus hunting in Greenland is controlled by various regulations, which vary by location. There is a year-round ban on walrus hunting south of 66° N, and walruses that are hauled out on land are completely protected. Greenlandic regulations also forbid the hunting of mature females and calves (except in the Qaanaaq area) (NAMMCO 2013b). In areas north of 66°, walrus hunting is restricted to people with a valid professional hunting licence, and transport used in connection with the hunt must be either a dog sled or vessels of 19.99 GRT/31.99 GT or less (NAMMCO 2013a). Sale of walrus products is limited to direct sales at open markets or for personal use only. Reporting of the sex, age class, and date of walrus harvested has been mandatory since 1994 (Wiig et al. 2014). Municipal authorities in Greenland also have the ability to implement further restrictions on walrus harvest if needed (NAMMCO 2013a).

Science-based sound management gives results

Walrus quotas were introduced in 2007, and covered a 3-year period from 2007 to 2009. These quotas were designed to allow for a gradual reduction of catches so that by 2009 the walrus harvest would be within the sustainable levels recommended by NAMMCO and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (NAMMCO 2013a). The second quota block covered the years 2010–2012, and was set so that the probability of maintaining or increasing the population was at least 70% or more until 2014 (NAMMCO 2013a). Recent harvests have been within these limits.

Two of the Greenland stocks are shared with Canada. While there is cooperation on walrus research and stock assessment, there is currently no formal walrus co-management agreement between the two countries.


Walrus have been protected in Norwegian territory (Svalbard) since 1952, and walrus hunting by Norwegian citizens in other areas is prohibited (Lydersen and Kovacs 2013). Much of the walrus habitat on Svalbard has been included in nature reserves and national parks, and there are no known interactions of these walruses with any fishery (Wolkers et al. 2006). The walrus stock around Svalbard also inhabits Russian territory. While there is cooperation on walrus research between Russia and Norway, there is currently no formal co-management agreement between the two countries.


In Canada, walrus are managed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The first regulations on walrus hunting were introduced in 1928 and have been amended several times since then (Wiig et al. 2014). Community quotas were enacted under the Walrus Protection Regulations of 1980, as was the limit of four walruses per year per Inuk. In 1993, the Walrus Protect Regulations were replaced by the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Fisheries Act, which stipulate that an Inuk or land claims beneficiary may, without a license, hunt for food, social or ceremonial purposes up to four walrus in a year. The Marine Mammal Regulations further stipulate requirements for hunting and established community quota levels for four communities in Nunavut: Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Coral Harbour and Sanikiluaq (DFO 2013b).

Under the Nunavut Land Claims agreement of 1993 the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) was established. The NWMB is a decision-making body within the Nunavut Settlement Area, with advisory authority in the adjacent waters. Ultimate responsibility for wildlife management, however, lies with the governments of Nunavut and Canada. These governments carry out NWMB decisions, once they are made.

In 1999 the NWMB created a walrus working group, which started developing a walrus management plan for Nunavut. This working group's members have been studying traditional and scientific knowledge about walrus, looking at problems with the current management system, and suggesting ways to better manage walrus. This new management plan is still under development, now with two working groups (one for Foxe Basin and one for Baffin Bay–High Arctic) currently drafting an Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for walrus in Nunavut (DFO 2013b).

Sport hunts for walrus began in Nunavut in 1995 and in Salluit (Nunavik) in 1996. Sport hunts are regulated by the annual issuing of licences, and hunts must be approved by the NWMB (Wiig et al. 2014). Sport hunts have been conducted in Cape Dorset, Hall beach, Igloolik and Coral Harbour, with only a few walrus taken (DFO 2013b). During the 2012 walrus sport hunt season a total of 18 licences were issued but only 4 walrus were taken (DFO 2012). In Igloolik, sport hunts were suspended for two years, starting in 2008, over community concern that walrus were being disturbed (DFO 2013b).


In Russian territory, regulations curtailing walrus harvest were introduced in 1921. In 1956 hunting of Atlantic walrus was prohibited for all Soviet citizens, excluding a limited subsistence harvest by aboriginal people (Wiig et al. 2014).

In 1971 the Novaya Zemlya population of walrus was included in the list of Rare Animals of the USSR. In 1975 regulations for protecting and harvesting of marine mammals prohibited sport hunting of walrus as well as any landing on or the littering of shore haul-outs at any time. It also prohibited the possession, manufacture, buying, selling, storage, and transportation of hides and tusks from walruses (Wiig et al. 2014).

Status according to other organizations

Walrus are listed in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Speciesof Fauna and Flora (CITES). Appendix III concerns species which are not necessarily endangered, but which are managed by the listing nation. For walrus, the listing nation was Canada. A permit is required for any international trade in walrus parts.

On the IUCN “Red list” walrus are listed as Data Deficient in an assessment made in 2008 (Lowry et al. 2008).