Murkowski Lashes Out at “Overbroad, Overreaching” NOAA Seal Decision, State Considers Challenge;
Senator Sees Christmas Friday Announcement as Evasive Tactic
December 26, 2012
(SitNews) - U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski responded with alarm at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s decision to categorize ringed seals and bearded seals as ‘threatened’ based on conjecture that forecasts conditions nearly a century away from now, and imperiling economic prospects for resource development that has historically co-existed with the seals.
This new decision will result in any federally-permitted activities in the seals’ habitat to clear added obstacles from the National Marine Fisheries Service. It also defies research that indicates no evidence of decline in the seal populations presently, and appears to ignore the fact that the United States and Russia have begun a rigorous two-year process together to survey and assess the seal populations in the Bering Sea to inform policy decisions accurately.
“I believe that Alaska’s wildlife must be protected, but not by relying on overbroad, overreaching analysis that runs counter to the abundant seal populations we presently see,” said Murkowski. “There is something misguided about policy that is guaranteed to cause real economic impact on the horizon based on a hundred year hunch. No wonder NOAA decided to release this decision the Friday before Christmas, hoping it won’t register with Alaskans.”
Upon hearing of NOAA's Dec. 21st decision, Governor Sean Parnell announced the same day that the State of Alaska is evaluating a potential challenge to two decisions by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listing the ringed seal and the bearded seal as threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The ringed seal population currently numbers in the millions and the bearded seal population in the hundreds of thousands. The state contends that no evidence was presented demonstrating either species is experiencing a decline now or will so by mid-century.
“The ESA was not enacted to protect healthy animal populations,” Governor Parnell said. “Despite this fact, the NMFS continues the federal government’s misguided policy to list healthy species based mostly on speculated impacts from future climate change, adding additional regulatory burdens and costs upon the State of Alaska and its communities, and wresting away Alaska’s sovereign interest in managing its own wildlife and resources.”
“The NMFS listed the species as threatened or endangered based primarily on climate models predicting sea ice habitat changes nearly 100 years into the future,” said Doug Vincent-Lang with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “The accuracy of such modeling becomes increasingly speculative and unreliable the farther into the future a prediction is made, particularly when such predictions exceed 50 years.”
The State of Alaska, industry groups, Alaska Native communities and others had issued numerous comments decrying the proposal to list the seals as threatened. Environmental activists sought the new listing.
The Alaska Department of Law is studying possible legal challenges to undo the NMFS decisions.
In compliance with a court ordered deadline, NOAA Fisheries announced on December 21, 2012 its final listing decision for four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPSs) of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, in line with the proposal, NOAA will list as threatened the Beringia and Okhotsk DPSs of bearded seals and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals. The Ladoga subspecies of ringed seals will be listed as endangered. The species that exist in U.S. waters (Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals) are already protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
NOAA Fisheries proposed the listings in December 2010 and provided opportunities for public input through public comment periods and during public hearings held in Anchorage, Barrow, and Nome. In accordance with NOAA’s Policy for Peer Review in ESA Activities, the agency also solicited comments from peer reviewers on each of the proposed rules. In December 2011, NOAA administratively extended the deadline for final listing determinations six months to June 2012 to allow for additional consideration of relevant science and information. In November 2012, the Alaska district court ordered NOAA to respond to a complaint about further delay by December 21, 2012.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
NOAA lists ringed and bearded ice seal populations under the Endangered Species Act - NOAA Fisheries announced this week , in compliance with a court ordered deadline, its final listing decision for four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPSs) of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act. - More...
SitNews - December 22, 2012
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Office of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Office of Gov. Sean Parnell
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