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Governor Evaluates Legal Action After NMFS Lists Healthy Seal Populations as Threatened

December 21, 2012, Juneau, Alaska – Governor Sean Parnell today announced 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.     

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