NOAA issues final rule listing some populations of Spotted Seals as threatened
75 Fed. Reg. 65239 (Friday, October 22, 2010) /Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Part 223 / Docket No. 0909171277–0491–02 / RIN 0648–XR74
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Status for the Southern Distinct Population Segment of the Spotted Seal
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: We, NMFS, issue a final determination to list the southern distinct population segment (DPS) of the spotted seal (Phoca largha) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Because the southern DPS occurs outside the United States, no critical habitat is proposed for designation. DATES: This final rule is effective on November 22, 2010.
The distribution of spotted seals is seasonally related to specific life history events that can be broadly divided into two periods: late fall through spring, when whelping, nursing, breeding, and molting all take place in association with the presence of sea ice on which the seals haul out, and summer through fall, when the sea ice has melted and spotted seals remain closer to shore to use land for hauling out. The annual timing of spotted seals’ reproduction has evolved to coincide with the average period of maximum extent and stability of the seasonal sea ice, which varies latitudinally across their range. Photo by Lloyd Lowry from Arctic Ocean Diversity
EXCERPT: We have reviewed the status of the southern DPS of the spotted seal, considering the best scientific and commercial data available. We have reviewed threats to the southern DPS, as well as other factors, and given consideration to conservation efforts and special designations for spotted seals by states and foreign nations. In consideration of all of the threats and potential threats identified above, the assessment of the risks posed by those threats, the possible cumulative impacts, and the uncertainty associated with all of these, we draw the following conclusions: (1) Abundance estimates indicate the Liaodong Bay spotted seals have been significantly reduced from historical numbers, while the Peter the Great population appears to be below historical numbers though table, possibly limited by fishery bycatch; (2) projected warming by mid-century indicates reliable ice formation will cease to occur in this region by the latter half of the 21st century; (3) there already is significant use of terrestrial habitat for whelping and nursing by the southern DPS of spotted seals; (4) overall, the southern DPS has been significantly reduced in number and now exists at abundance levels where additional loss would threaten this DPS through ‘‘small population’’ or demographic stochasticity effects; and (5) the continued viability of using terrestrial sites is unknown, but may be limited in area or predispose spotted seals to predation and other natural and anthropogenic effects. Therefore, we conclude that the southern DPS of the spotted seal is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and list it as threatened under the ESA.