ASRC today filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of Commerce, challenging the listing of two bearded seal populations as "threatened". Arctic Slope Regional Corporation joins the North Slope Borough and Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS) in filing its challenge. This coalition of Alaska Native groups is seeking relief for the government's violation of the Endangered Species Act. NANA Regional Corp. and the Northwest Arctic Borough are currently considering filing similar challenges.
"As I stated in 2011, the Alaska Native community has long been a key partner in the effort to maintain a healthy population of marine mammals along the North Slope," said Rex Rock Sr., ASRC president and CEO. "It's disappointing to see our input, our insight, and our legitimate concerns once again disregarded by the federal government."
In his letter explaining ASRC's intent to sue, Rock stated, "The best available science does not support listing the bearded seal" as threatened, and pointed out that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has "acknowledged that bearded seal populations are currently robust, are widely distributed throughout their range, have a high degree of genetic diversity, and are not currently at risk of extinction."
The notice of intent to sue also alleges that the NMFS improperly relied on long-term projections that are inconsistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The model projected 87 years into the future, in a departure from NMFS's previous practice where they acknowledged in 2008 that modeling beyond 2050 yielded results "too divergent for reliable use."
George Olemaun, President of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, explained, "The bearded seal is and has always been a part of our preparation for our whaling, as the skin for our boats and for our sustenance prepared for our seal oil and dried meat. The bearded seal is as much a part of our whaling culture as the whale. The decision to list our oogruk as endangered species will have a determent to our way of life as Inupiaq." More....