Alaska considered lawsuit over ESA listing of bearded, ringed seals

Alaska is considering a legal challenge to an Endangered Species Act listing of bearded and ringed seals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says the two species are threatened by the loss of Arctic sea ice. The agency listed the seals as threatened on Friday.

The state immediately shot back. Governor Sean Parnell said the seal populations are healthy. He said “the ESA was not enacted to protect healthy populations.”

Parnell said no evidence has been presented to demonstrate that either species is in decline now, or will be by mid-century.

Fish and Game endangered species expert Doug Vincent-Lang said the federal agency’s climate model predicting sea ice change nearly 100 years into the future is speculative. He said the farther out such predictions are made, the more unreliable the models become.

Ringed seals are the only seals that thrive under completely ice-covered Arctic waters. They are the main prey of polar bears. Bearded seals give birth and rear pups on drifting pack ice. Federal officials cite diminishing sea ice due to climate warming as a reason the species are threatened.

The state is evaluating a challenge to both NMFS’ decisions.

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