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article imageLawsuit Announced to Protect Arctic Seals

By Bob Ewing     Jun 5, 2009 in Environment
The Center for Biological Diversity notified the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of its intent to file suit against the agency for delaying protection of Arctic seals.
The lawsuit is related to the failure to protect the seals under the Environment Protection Act.
The Center, in May 2008, filed a petition to protect the ice-dependent ringed, bearded, and spotted seals under the Act due to threats from global warming and increasing oil development in their habitat.
In September of that year, the agency found the three seal species may deserve Endangered Species Act protection but has subsequently failed to make a decision on whether the species warrant legal protection within the one-year deadline provided by the statute.
This week’s 60-day notice of intent to sue is a legally required precursor before a lawsuit can be filed to compel the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to comply with the law.
“The Arctic is in crisis due to global warming,” said Rebecca Noblin, with the Center in Anchorage.
“An entire ecosystem is rapidly melting away, and we risk losing not only the polar bear but the ice seals and other ice-dependent species if we do not take immediate action to address global warming.”
In addition to loss of sea ice from global warming, these seals face threats from increased oil and gas development in their habitat and the proliferation of shipping routes in an increasingly ice-free Arctic. Both activities bring heightened risk of oil spills and rising levels of noise pollution and other kinds of human disturbance.
“With rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, combined with a moratorium on new oil and gas development in the Arctic, we can still save the ice seals and other Arctic wildlife,” Noblin said.
“If the ice seals are to survive, we need to protect their habitat, rather than converting it into a polluted industrial zone.”
Listing of the seals would not affect subsistence harvest of these seals by Alaska natives, which is exempted from the law’s prohibitions.
More about Lawsuit, Arctic seals, Global warming
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