- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The proposed listings cite threats posed by diminishing sea ice, and additionally, for ringed seals, reduced snow cover. NOAA climate models were used to predict future sea ice conditions.
If the proposal is accepted, it would be the first time the ESA has been invoked primarily due to climate change.
One of the five recognized subspecies of ringed seals, the Saimaa in Finland, is already listed as endangered under the ESA. Under the proposed rules published today in the Federal Register, the remaining four subspecies of ringed seals – Arctic, Okhotsk, Baltic and Ladoga – would all be listed as threatened as well.
Impact on industry is expected to be minimal: ringed seals are found in the Arctic Basin (including the Bering Sea), western North Pacific (Sea of Okhotsk and Sea of Japan), and in the North Atlantic in the Baltic Sea and Lakes Ladoga and Saimaa east of the Baltic Sea. Throughout most of its range, the Arctic ringed seal does not come ashore and uses sea ice for whelping, nursing, molting, and resting. Ringed seal pups are normally born in snow caves in the spring, and are vulnerable to freezing and predation without them. Timing of spring ice break-up, snow depths on sea ice, and late-winter rain can adversely affect snow cave formation and occupation. That the species produces only a single pup each year may limit the ringed seal's ability to respond to environmental challenges such as the diminishing ice and snow cover, according to the NOAA release.
NOAA's Fisheries Service is seeking comments from the public on the proposed listing of ringed and bearded ice seals for 60 days from date of publication in the Federal Register, which should be Dec. 7 or 8. The proposed rules, maps, status review reports and other materials relating to this proposal can be found on the Alaska Region website at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
SOURCE: NOAA press release