Frustrated by a lack of regulations limiting global warming, a conservation group wants ribbon seals listed as threatened or endangered...
ANCHORAGE — Frustrated by a lack of regulations limiting global warming, a conservation group wants ribbon seals listed as threatened or endangered because their habitat — sea ice — is disappearing amid climate change.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday filed a 91-page petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service seeking to list ribbon seals as threatened or endangered. The group says the classification is needed because sea ice is disappearing because of climate change brought on by humans.
“The Arctic is in crisis state from global warming,” said biologist Shaye Wolf, lead author of the petition. “An entire ecosystem is rapidly melting away, and the ribbon seal is poised to become the first victim of our failure to address global warming.”
A message left by The Associated Press with the federal fisheries service was not immediately returned.
Most Read Local Stories
- Washington state primary election: How the day unfolded, plus results of key races VIEW
- Coronavirus daily news updates, August 4: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- After protests near her home, Seattle police chief asks City Council to intervene; activists say neighbors pointed guns at them
- COVID-19 positivity rates drop in King County, but hot spots to south still burn brightly
- Gyms will need to triple distance for exercising indoors
The petition marks the center’s second attempt to use the Endangered Species Act to force action on global warming. Within weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list polar bears as threatened because of habitat loss from global warming.
World climate experts who made up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in February that global warming “very likely” is caused by human use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.
The Endangered Species Act requires animals to be categorized as endangered if they risk extinction as a result of destruction of their habitat. A species is threatened if it is likely to become endangered.
Either listing would require federal wildlife managers to create a recovery plan that could address U.S. causes of global warming. When considering permits for development, other federal agencies could be required to take action to avoid harm to threatened animals.
Attorney Brendan Cummings, ocean-program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that without a national legal mechanism regulating greenhouse gases, his organization has turned to the Endangered Species Act.
“Absent action by Congress and this administration, it’s perhaps the best law on the books to gain some benefits,” he said.
The National Marine Fisheries Service manages ribbon seals. The animals are distinguished by the patterns of their fur — four white bands or ribbons encircling the head, base of the trunk and the two front flippers over a dark coat, a pattern that gives them the coloration of a panda bear.
Among marine mammals, ribbon seals may be the most dependent on sea ice, Cummings said. The rough estimate for the number of ribbon seals is about 240,000, he said.
During summer and fall, ribbon seals live in the water and feed on fish, squid and crustaceans in the Bering and Chukchi seas. But from March through June, ribbon seals rely on loose pack ice in the Bering and Okhotsk seas for reproduction and molting, and as a platform for foraging.
Ribbon seals give birth and nurse pups exclusively on sea ice. Ice allows the seals and their young to avoid predators.