By Carey Restino
The North Slope Borough announced last week that it was joining others in filing suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service over its recent decision to list some populations of Arctic Bearded seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
"We are very concerned about environmental impacts on bearded seals and other wildlife," said North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower "However, as our residents know, the population of bearded seals is currently healthy and abundant. This listing is improper because it is not based on good science. It also sets a bad precedent when the agency is making decisions based on speculation."
The fisheries service published its final rule in late December, listing four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. The two populations of bearded seals listed as threatened were the Beringia and Okhotsk populations of bearded seals and the Arctic Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals.
The listing had no impact on subsistence harvest of ice seals by Alaska Natives, but required Federal agencies that permit or fund projects that may affect a listed species consult with NOAA Fisheries to ensure the activities they are permitting will not jeopardize the specific populations.
"Our scientists undertook an extensive review of the best scientific and commercial data. They concluded that a significant decrease in sea ice is probable later this century and that these changes will likely cause these seal populations to decline," said Jon Kurland, protected resources director for NOAA Fisheries' Alaska region, in a release last December announcing the listing. More....