The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110

Counter-attack Launched Against Oil Industry Attempt to Halt Bearded Seals' Protection

Global Warming, Oil Development Remain Key Threats to Arctic Seals


The Center for Biological Diversity intervened in a lawsuit today to defend Arctic bearded seals from an attempt by the oil and gas industry to strip their Endangered Species Act protection.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and American Petroleum Institute are challenging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2012 decision to list bearded seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the loss of their sea-ice habitat, which is being melted by global warming.

"There's no scientific dispute that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and bearded seals are the poster child for the destructive effects of the global warming onslaught," said Center Alaska director Rebecca Noblin. "This industry attack on bearded seal protections is about profits, not science."

Bearded seals, distinctive for their comical, mustachioed appearance and elaborate courtship songs, give birth and nurse their pups on pack ice. The rapid loss of pack ice jeopardizes their ability to rear young and is lowering the abundance of important food sources on their shallow foraging grounds off Alaska.

The seals' winter sea-ice habitat in the Bering and Okhotsk seas off Alaska and Russia is projected to decline by at least 40 percent by 2050, while summer sea ice across the Arctic is projected to largely disappear in the next 20 years. These seals also face threats from proposed offshore oil and gas development off Alaska, where an oil spill in icy waters would be impossible to clean up.

"Bearded seals do have a chance to survive, but only if they have the full protection of the Endangered Species Act -- and if we move fast to make major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," said Noblin. "If we don't aggressively tackle that greenhouse gas pollution, we're looking at a lonely future on our planet -- a future without amazing creatures like these whiskery seals."

Endangered Species Act listing of bearded seals offers them increased protection against the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, as well as oil and gas development. Listing of the seals does not affect subsistence harvest of the species by Alaska natives, which is exempted from the law's prohibitions.

The state of Alaska and the North Slope Borough have also filed challenges to the bearded seal listing rule.

Read more about the Center's campaign to protect bearded seals.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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