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Court Overturns Listing of the Beringia Population of Bearded Seals Under the Endangered Species Act


July 25, 2014, Anchorage, Alaska – The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska today overturned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 2012 listing of the Beringia population of bearded seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Beringia population of bearded seals can be found within Alaska and U.S. lands and waters.

“We are pleased the court agreed that the listing of the bearded seal was not warranted,” said Attorney General Michael C. Geraghty. “The listing was based solely on speculative 100-year projections that lacked any credible scientific evidence. Because it was unnecessary the listing would only place unnecessary and costly regulatory burdens on responsible development opportunities and divert resources from helping species that truly need it.”

In order to list a species under the Endangered Species Act, NMFS must show a connection between the scientific data and the decision to list. NMFS admitted that the Beringia population is currently at healthy levels but decided to list the population anyway. Alaska and others sought to overturn the threatened listing on the grounds that the decision lacked the necessary scientific evidence to support the decision. 

“The State is committed to the sustainable management of its wildlife, but in this instance there was no demonstrated need to list the seals,” Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell said. “We are pleased that the court acted on the admission by NMFS that it lacked any reliable data as to the actual impact on the bearded seal population as a result of the loss of sea-ice out to end of the century. We are also pleased with the Court’s finding that in this case forecasting more than 50 years into the future is simply too speculative.” 

For more information on the case, contact Assistant Attorney General Brad Meyen at 269-5100. For more information on any of the scientific information, please contact Doug Vincent-Lang, Director of Division of Wildlife Conservation at 267-2339.

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