Petition by Alaska to delist seals as threatened rejected

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KENAI, Alaska (AP) — A petition by the state of Alaska to delist three species of Arctic ringed seals as threatened has been rejected.

The decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service on Wednesday was based on “threats associated with ongoing and projected changes in sea ice and on-ice snow depths stemming from climate change within the foreseeable future.” The federal agency also said that the state of Alaska’s petition did not present new information that had not been previously examined.

The National Marine Fisheries Service listed three subspecies of ringed seal — the Arctic, Okhotsk and Baltic — as threatened in 2012. The federal agency had listed them as threatened because warming temperatures and diminished sea ice had an adverse effect on the population and overall health of the species, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game criticized the decision to reject the petition in a statement on Wednesday.

“Ongoing research, along with traditional knowledge compiled since the listing shows no evidence of declines in ringed seal populations,” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang said in the statement. “The seals are handling current environmental changes well. ESA listings should be reserved for imperiled species. It is difficult to believe that a species with a healthy, robust population that numbers in the millions can be threatened with extinction.”

The state agency also said that keeping the seals’ listing “will have significant consequences for the economy of the State and subsistence opportunities for Alaska Natives with little to no conservation benefit to ringed seals.”

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