NOAA considering listing of ribbon seal, and initiating status reviews of other Alaskan seal species
73 Fed. Reg. 16617 (Friday, March 28, 2008)(Department of Commerce; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Notice of a 90–day petition finding; request for information; and initiation of status reviews of ribbon, bearded, ringed, and spotted seals)
SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90–day finding on a petition to list the ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, we initiate a status review of the ribbon seal to determine if listing under the ESA is warranted. Concurrently, we also initiate a status review of the other ice seal species: bearded (Erignathus barbatus), ringed (Phoca fasciata), and spotted (Phoca largha). To ensure these status reviews are comprehensive, we solicit scientific and commercial information regarding all of these ice seal species.
Photo of ribbon seal , with "ribbons" clearly visible in contrast to the ice, from NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory
BACKGROUND: “It is the petitioner’s contention that the ribbon seal faces global extinction in the wild, and therefore, is an endangered species as defined under 16 U.S.C. 1532(6). The petition presents information on (1) ‘‘global warming which is resulting in the rapid melt of the [seals’] sea-ice habitat;’’ (2) ‘‘high harvest levels allowed by the Russian Federation;’’ (3) ‘‘current oil and gas development;’’ (4) ‘‘rising contaminant levels in the Arctic;’’ and (5) ‘‘bycatch mortality and competition for prey resources from commercial fisheries.’’ The petition also presents information on the taxonomy, distribution, habitatrequirements, reproduction, diet, natural mortality, and demographics; as well as a discussion of the applicability of the five factors listed under ESA section 4(a)(1).
COMMENTARY: Although the petition from the Center for Biological Diversity sought only to list the ribbon seal as an endangered species under the ESA, NOAA announced its intention to do even more:
It is also our prerogative to broaden the scope of the review if available information indicates such an action is appropriate. In this case, we have also chosen to initiate a status review of the other ice seal species (bearded-- Erignathus barbatus, ringed--Phoca fasciata, and spotted--Phoca largha) in the Alaska region that share similar habitat and biological requirements as ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata). This status review is not subject to the statutory timelines which govern the ribbon seal status review, as outlined above, and will be completed as agency resources allow.