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NOAA releases special reports on ringed and bearded seals; invites public comment

Juneau, AK — NOAA Fisheries is accepting public input on two reports that consolidate peer review comments. NOAA will consider all comments when determining whether certain ringed and bearded seal population units qualify for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 
 
Final determinations on the proposed listing actions will be made later in the year.
 
In December 2010, the agency proposed to list four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments (DPS) of bearded seals, including the Arctic ringed seal and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals, as threatened under the ESA. Both Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals occur in U.S. (Alaska) waters.
 
The listing proposals cited threats posed by diminishing sea ice, and additionally, for ringed seals, reduced snow cover. Scientists used climate models to predict future sea ice and snow conditions. They also used status review reports which are developed using the best scientific and commercial data available. Data included the status of ringed and bearded seals, including the past, present and future threats to these species.
 
NOAA Fisheries found substantial scientific disagreements in some peer and public comments received on the listing proposals, particularly relating to the sufficiency or accuracy of the model projections and analysis of future sea ice habitat for Arctic ringed seals and the Beringia DPS of bearded seals.
 
To address the scientific disagreements and to solicit additional information for the final listing decisions, NOAA Fisheries announced in December 2011 that they would conduct special peer reviews to look at those aspects of the ringed and bearded seal status review reports.
 
These special peer reviews have been completed and consolidated in reports that are now available for public review and comment. The comment periods are open for 30 days.
 
The peer review reports are available at the Federal eRulemaking Portal, http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. NOAA-NMFS-2010-0258 (ringed seal) and NOAA-NMFS-2010-0259 (bearded seal); and at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seals/ice.htm
 
Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted, since they are already part of the record, and will be considered when NOAA Fisheries makes its final determinations.
 
When submitting comments, please specify which species you are commenting on by docket number: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0648-0258 for ringed seals; and NOAA-NMFS-2010-0648-0259 for bearded seals. Send comments to Jon Kurland, Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources, Alaska Region, NMFS, ATTN: Ellen Sebastian, by one of the following methods:
 
* Electronic submissions: Submit through http://www.regulations.gov
* Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668
* Fax: 907-586-7557
* Hand delivery: Juneau Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK
       
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or www.afsc.noaa.gov.

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