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ESAblawg is an educational effort by Keith W. Rizzardi. Correspondence with this site does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Photos or links may be copyrighted (but used with permission, or as fair use). ESA blawg is published with a Creative Commons License.

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florida gators... never threatened!

If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.

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Follow the truth.

"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820.

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Thanks, Kevin.

KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

« 9th Circuit ruling on bull trout consultation could have long term ramifications | Main| ESA news from the Bay-Delta: Judge Wanger rejects current biological opinion, while vocal constituents reject the Bay Delta Conservation Plan alternative »

One off, two on? In response to petition by Alaska, Washington and Oregon, NOAA may delist Steller's sea lion, but NOAA may list bearded seals and ringed seals.

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75 Fed. Reg. 77602 (Monday, December 13, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Part 223 / Docket No. 101124581–0584–01 / RIN 0648–XA046
Endangered and Threatened Species; 90-Day Finding on Petitions To Delist the Eastern Distinct Population Segment of the Steller Sea Lion
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding; request for information.

SUMMARY: We (NMFS) announce a 90-day finding on two petitions to delist the eastern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). We find that the petitions present substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. We are continuing our status review of this DPS to determine if the petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are again  soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding this species from any interested party. DATES: Information and comments must be submitted to NMFS by February 11, 2011.

stellersealionsmall.jpg
The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) was listed as a threatened species under the ESA on April 5, 1990 (55 FR 12645).  In 1997, based on demographic and genetic dissimilarities, NOAA designated two DPSs of Steller sea lions under the ESA: A western DPS and an eastern DPS (62 FR 24345, 62 FR 30772). Due to persistent decline, the western DPS was reclassified as endangered, while the increasing eastern DPS remained classified as threatened.  NOAA's March 2008 Revised Final Recovery Plan for the Steller's SeaLionstates that, in 2002, the number of individuals in the eastern DPS was estimated to be between 46,000 and 58,000, and the Executive Summary of the 2008 Recovery Plan states that the eastern DPS appears to have recovered from the predator control programs of the 20th century, which extirpated animals at rookeries and haulouts, no substantial threats are currently evident, and the population continues to increase at approximately 3 percent per year (NMFS 2008).  On August 30, 2010, NOAA received a petition from the States of Washington and Oregon to delist the eastern DPS of Steller sea lion under the ESA. On September 1, 2010, the Secretary of Commerce received a petition from the State of Alaska to delist the eastern DPS of Steller sea lion. Image from NOAA.

EXCERPT: new information that was not available at the time of the 2008 Recovery Plan, but that was readily available in our files upon receipt of the petitions, was presented in the petitions. For example, the petition from the States of Oregon and Washington refers to a recently published paper when they state: ‘‘Boyd (2010) concluded that ‘‘the eastern and western segments of the population have probabilities of persistence that mean they do not meet the criteria for classification as endangered and it would be reasonable to delist them’’.’’ The State of Alaska’s petition cites new aerial survey information provided in a memorandum from the Alaska Fishery Science Center to the Alaska Region Protected Resources Division of NMFS. This memorandum reported that Steller sea lion pup production in Southeast Alaska (eastern DPS) totaled 7,462 pups in 2009, with 7,443 counted at the 5 major rookeries where 5,510 had been counted in 2005.

KEITHINKING: While this is a preliminary step, delisting seems like a done deal, given NOAA's own information, and new information from three affected states.  See JuneauEmpire.   All this information suggests stable, rising and healthy population sizes, any conclusion other than a delisting guarantees litigation (especially with the fishery, see Alaska Dispatch and Fairbanks Daily News) , and presumably, a NOAA defeat.  Then again, does achieving compliance with a recovery plan really mean a population can be delisted?  See James Noles article.  Then again, sea lion advocates like the Sea Lion Defense Brigade will fiercely oppose delisting, and of course, with all three states in the 9th Circuit, who knows what will happen.  See Humane Society v. Gutierrez (as recently discussed in ESA blawg)

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75 Fed. Reg. 77496 (Friday, December 10, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Part 223 / Docket No. 101126591–0588–01 / RIN 0648–XZ58
Endangered and Threatened Species; Proposed Threatened and Not Warranted Status for Subspecies and Distinct Population Segments of the Bearded Seal
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; status review; request for comments.

SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have completed a comprehensive status review of the bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list the bearded seal as a threatened or endangered species. The bearded seal exists as two subspecies: Erignathus barbatus nauticus and Erignathus barbatus barbatus. Based on the findings from the status review report and consideration of the factors affecting these subspecies, we conclude that E. b. nauticus consists of two distinct population segments (DPSs), the Beringia DPS and the Okhotsk DPS. Moreover, based on consideration of information presented in the status review report, an assessment of the factors in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA, and efforts being made to protect the species, we have determined the Beringia DPS and the Okhotsk DPS are likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of their ranges in the foreseeable future. We have also determined that E. b. barbatus is not in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, we are now issuing a proposed rule to list the Beringia DPS and the Okhotsk DPS of the bearded seal as threatened species. No listing action is proposed for E. b. barbatus. We solicit comments on this proposed action. At this time, we do not propose to designate critical habitat for the Beringia DPS because it is not currently determinable. In order to complete the critical habitat designation process, we solicit information on the essential physical and biological features of bearded seal habitat for the Beringia DPS. DATES: Comments and information regarding this proposed rule must be received by close of business on February 8, 2011. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing and received by January 24, 2011.

beardedSealNOAA.jpg
The bearded seal is the largest of the northern ice-associated seals, with typical adult body sizes of 2.1–2.4 m in length and weight up to 360 kg. Bearded seals have several distinctive physical features including a wide girth; a small head in proportion to body size; long whiskers; and square-shaped fore flippers. The life span of bearded seals is about 20–25 years. Bearded seals have a circumpolar distribution south of 85° N. latitude, extending south into the southern Bering Sea in the Pacific and into Hudson Bay and southern Labrador in the Atlantic. Bearded seals also occur in the Sea of Okhotsk south to the northern Sea of Japan. Image from NOAAnews.

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75 Fed. Reg 77476 (Friday, December 10, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Part 223 / Docket No. 101126590–0589–01 / RIN 0648–XZ59
Endangered and Threatened Species; Proposed Threatened Status for Subspecies of the Ringed Seal
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Commerce.
ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; status review; request for comments.
SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have completed a comprehensive status review of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and announce a 12-month finding on a petition to list the ringed seal as a threatened or endangered species. Based on consideration of information presented in the status review report, an assessment of the factors in the ESA, and efforts being made to protect the species, we have determined the Arctic (Phoca hispida hispida), Okhotsk (Phoca hispida ochotensis), Baltic (Phoca hispida botnica), and Ladoga (Phoca hispida ladogensis) subspecies of the ringed seal are likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of their range in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, we issue a proposed rule to list these subspecies of the ringed seal as threatened species, and we solicit comments on this proposed action. At this time, we do not propose to designate critical habitat for the Arctic ringed seal because it is not currently determinable. In order to complete the critical  abitat  designation process, we also solicit information on essential physical and biological features of Arctic ringed seal habitat. DATES: Comments and information regarding this proposed rule must be  received by close of business on February 8, 2011. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing and received by January 24, 2011.

ringedSealNOAA.jpg
The ringed seal is the smallest of the northern seals, with typical adult body sizes of 1.5 m in length and 70 kg in weight. The average life span of ringed seals is about 15–28 years. As the common name of this species suggests, its coat is characterized by ring-shaped markings. Ringed seals are adapted to remaining in heavily ice-covered areas throughout the fall, winter, and spring by using the stout claws on their fore flippers to maintain breathing holes in the ice. Image from Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

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KEITHINKING: The preliminary decisions on both ringed and bearded seals note the threats of climate change and diminishing sea ice, as modeled by NOAA.  See NOAA announcement and Sustainable Business.  Interestingly, NOAA's past discussion of ribbon seals, as previously discussed in ESA blawg, revealed NOAA's intention to undertake status reviews of the bearded and ringed seal populations,and the Center for Biological Diversity also petitioned NOAA to list the two species. While NOAA is proposing to list the bearded and ringed seals, NOAA did not propose to list the ribbon seal.

LINKS: See also RadioKenai, High Country News.

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A recent NOAA announcement also discusses the information collection and reporting requirements associated with the recently listed North American Green Sturgeon.

75 Fed. Reg. 77528 (Monday, December 13, 2010) / Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
15 CFR Part 902 / Docket No. 070910507–0576–03 / RIN 0648–AV94
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Final Rulemaking To Establish Take Prohibitions for the Threatened Southern Distinct Population Segment of North American Green Sturgeon; Permit and Reporting Requirements
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Final rule; approval of collection-of-information requirements.
SUMMARY: NMFS announces the approval of collection-of-information requirements contained in protective regulations established under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the threatened Southern Distinct Population Segment of North American green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris; hereafter, Southern DPS). The intent of this final rule is to inform the public of the permitting and reporting requirements.