Global Warming Estimates Used to Protect Seals

The potential for global warming to create an imminent loss of sea ice was sufficient grounds to list the Pacific bearded seal as a endangered, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Monday the National Marine Fisheries Service listing of a sea ice seal as endangered or threatened based on climate projections for the loss of sea ice in the Arctic was “reasonable.

The finding that the subspecies of Pacific bearded seal as endangered by the year 2095 and thus subject to a listing as a threatened species due to habitat loss from climate change “clearly fulfilled its procedural and substantive obligations” under the law, the court held.

The Center for Biological Diversity, in 2008, asked the NMFS to list three sea ice seal species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. After a lengthy administrative process, the NMFS did find that two distinct populations of Pacific Bearded seals would likely become endangered throughout their range in the foreseeable future.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the state of Alaska and the North Slope Borough filed separate lawsuit challenging the listing of the seals as threatened. They arguing the listing was not based on the best scientific data available and use of predictive climate projections beyond 2050 was speculative.

The trial court agreed but the appeals panel overturned that decision.

“ALthought data regarding the bearded seal is limited. NMFS conducted a thorough assessment based on the best available scientific and commercial data, and it seriously considered the comments it received prior to listing the Beringia [seal] as a threatened species,” the panel held.

The NMFS clearly fulfilled its procedural obligations, the court said.

Case: Alaska Oil & Gas Association v. Pritzker, No. 14-35806



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