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Court Overturns Threatened Listing of the Beringia Population of Bearded Seals


In 2012 the Beringia population of bearded seals was deemed threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  However, now there’s evidence that the seals in that area may not be endangered after all. 

The US District Court for the District of Alaska overturned the National Marine Fisheries Service 2012 listing of the Beringia population of bearded seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The court reversed the threatened listing for two reasons; the first was a lack of scientific evidence supporting the seals being in danger and the second was the agency’s 100 year speculation. 

Senior Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska Brad Meyen says that 100 year projection refers to ice melting.

“As many people are familiar with the polar bear as a threatened species, in that instance a 45-50 year period of time was the window used by the Fish and Wildlife Service for the listing. Then modeled impacts in the species. In this instance, the National Marine Fisheries Service went beyond that period of time, to use 100 year model period of time as for the period in time that the sea ice reduction would be such that it would in their view impact the seals.”

However, the court’s view was that the seals would not be impacted in that 100 year span. 

Meyen says there are five factors that a species must meet to be considered endangered or threatened.  A species must be facing potential harm to their habitat, over-utilization of species for commercial, recreational or education purposes, disease or predation, inadequate regulations or other factors affecting its existence.  A species needs only one of those factors to be considered threatened.

“Any one of these five factors that the agency will look at that are set forth by the Endangered Species Act and any one of them could be the basis of the list of the species. And in this instance when the court reviewed the record, the court did not find a basis on any one of the factors in the scientific record to support the listing.”

US District Court Judge Ralph Beistline made the ruling.  He ordered NMFS to correct the inadequacies in the study of the population.  Although the Beringia population could one day be on the endangered list again, according to the listing rules there is no significant threat to the seals until 2090.