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NOAA is taking public comment on protecting Arctic ringed seals

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA declared the Arcitc ringed seal threatened two years ago and now wants to protect waters vital to their existence.   

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working on protecting four subspecies of ringed seals, including the Arctic ringed seal in Alaskan waters.  

Public affairs officer for NOAA Alaska Julie Speegle says the organization is asking for public comment regarding the preservation of the lands and waters the seals need.

“The proposed critical habitat area includes the northern Bering Sea, the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea.”

Two years ago, NOAA declared the Arctic ringed seals as threatened.  A species is threatened if it has the potential to become endangered.  These seals are threatened because ice formation that they rely on is forming later and later. 

Speegle says the Arctic ringed seals nurse and protect their pups in snow caves which are melting.

“Sea ice is projected to shrink in both extent and duration in the future. So the areas that they need for their important life process is going to go away.”

The open comment program is opened through April 13th.  After which, Speegle says NOAA will take the information gathered and combine it with the scientific data they’ve incurred.

“Probably around this time next year we would expect to be at least close to a final rule to designate critical habitat.”

Public comment and informational meetings will be set up for communities around the state in the weeks to come.