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NOAA to review status of harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, seeks public comment


NOAA Fisheries scientist Dave Withrow took this aerial photo of harbor seals basking on a sandbar on Iliamna Lake, Alaska, during a Summer 2011 survey.

PHOTO: Dave Withrow/NOAA

NOAA Fisheries will conduct a status review to determine if the harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, Alaska are a distinct population segment of the Pacific harbor seal, and if they are, whether these seals should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Last November, NOAA Fisheries received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list harbor seals in Iliamna Lake as an endangered or threatened species, and to designate critical habitat for the seals. The petition claims that the Pacific harbor seals of Iliamna Lake are geographically isolated from other Pacific harbor seal populations, and therefore constitute a distinct population segment under the ESA. In the petition, the Center estimates there are about 250 to 350 adult harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, and that threats from climate change, ocean acidification, and the Pebble Mine project qualify the animal to be listed as an endangered or threatened species.
NOAA Fisheries has concluded that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information that the actions called for by the petition may be warranted and is initiating a status review as required under the ESA. A status review is a more thorough review of the available information to help determine whether listing is, in fact, warranted. NOAA’s action announced today on the petition does not prejudge the outcome of the status review and listing determination. NOAA Fisheries expects to complete the status review by the end of November 2013.
To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the agency is soliciting scientific and commercial information regarding seals in Iliamna Lake through a 60-day public comment period. Information and comments must be received by July 17, 2013.
Address comments to Jon Kurland, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian, and identified by FDMS Docket Number NOAA-NMFS-2012-0236. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
  •  Electronic Submission: via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov
  •  Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau AK 99802-1668
  •  Fax: 907-586-7557
  •  Hand delivery to the Federal Building: 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, Alaska
A copy of the petition is available online at the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region website: http://www.alaskafisheris.noaa.gov/protectedresources/seals/harbor.htm.
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