September 13, 2012

Ringed And Bearded Seals Causing Controversy For NOAA

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Environmentalists are going to extreme measures to try and save seals by taking on the government in court.

The Center for Biological Diversity claim the National Marine Fisheries Service has illegally delayed listings for the ringed seal and the bearded seal.

The agency proposed listing the seal species as threatened back in December 2010, but the National Marine Fisheries Service missed the statutory deadline to formally list the seals last week.

The Center for Biological Diversity gave a required 60-day notice back in June that said it would sue the agency for missing a deadline on deciding whether or not to protect the seals.

A final decision was due back in December of last year, but officials from the government agency said they would extend the deadline for another six months.

The lawsuit is an attempt to try and compel the agency to go ahead and grant the seals threatened status.

As the Earth's climate activity continues to change, and shrink the Arctic ice shelf, it is affecting animals that depend on the Arctic ice floes to hunt for prey.

"Global warming will impact ringed and bearded seals directly by degrading and eliminating critical sea-ice habitat, which will have devastating consequences by reducing adult reproductive success and the survival of pups and impairing their ability to molt," the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage, says.

Ringed seals also use snow caves to protect their young, so the thinning Arctic snow pack puts "seal pups at higher risk of death from freezing and predation," the lawsuit says.

The agency claims that the seals are also being threatened by the offshore Arctic oil development.

The National Marine Fisheries Service agreed in the 2010 proposal that Arctic climate change justifies Endangered Species Act protection for the seals. However, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent agency for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the seal listings were still in the works.

"I just know that we are in process," Julie Speegle, a Juneau spokeswoman for NOAA, told Reuters.