The State of Alaska, along with the North Slope Borough, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope submitted a petition today to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) requesting delisting of the Arctic subspecies of ringed seal, currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The petition presents evidence that the 2012 listing was made in error. New information and reanalysis of prior data demonstrate that:
• The Arctic subspecies of ringed seal continues to occupy the entire circumpolar Arctic, with an abundant population numbering in the millions;
• The “foreseeable future” extending out to 2100, as defined by NMFS for the listing rule, is not as scientifically defensible as a period extending to 2055, based on three ringed-seal generation times;
• At the time of listing, NMFS lacked scientific information adequate to show how the population would respond to projected habitat declines, or that the population will decline to the point of extinction even out to 2100;
• Despite documented declines in sea ice habitat over the past several decades, this seal subspecies has shown no evidence of decline in body condition or measures of population health;
• The best available scientific information now available indicates ringed seals are resilient and adaptable to varying conditions across their enormous range and are likely to adapt to habitat conditions that change over time;
• Maintaining the threatened listing, particularly following the designation of critical habitat, will have significant consequences for the economy of the State and the traditional lifestyles of Alaska Natives.
“New information shows no evidence of declines in ringed seal populations,” said Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Eddie Grasser.
“The seals are handling current environmental changes well. ESA listings should be reserved for imperiled species not for species with healthy, robust populations that number in the millions.”
Given this new information, the State and co-petitioners request the NMFS (1) reassess listing and delisting factors, (2) find that the Arctic subspecies of ringed seal does not meet the definition of threatened under the ESA, and (3) delist the subspecies.