Arctic Bearded Seals Listed Under Endangered Species Act for Survival From Climate Change
The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has strongly reversed a lower court ruling in 2014 that questioned the enlistment of bearded seals in the Arctic as threatened species, emphasizing that such may happen considering climate change.
The three-judge panel has unanimously fought for the Pacific bearded seals' protection against oil companies that were trying to work out oil explorations and extractions in Alaska's offshore. Aside from the possible oil spills that may endanger the habitat of seals in the area, the panel also utilized climate models.
Using projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, six climate models were used to further understand whether the sea ice seals need to be protected. Since it is estimated that by 2050, winter ice can be reduced by about 40 percent, leaving no summer ice as short as 20 years from now, the action declaring that the seals are threatened is valid.
"The service need not wait until a species’ habitat is destroyed to determine that habitat loss may facilitate extinction,” Judge Richard A. Paez said regarding their decision over the filed case. He also mentioned that the NOAA Fisheries agency simply needs to “consider the best and most reliable scientific and commercial data and to identify the limits of that data when making a listing determination.”
Kirsten Monsell, an attorney from the Center for Biological Diversity, also wrote in an article, “This is a huge victory for bearded seals and shows the vital importance of the Endangered Species Act in protecting species threatened by climate change. This decision will give bearded seals a fighting chance while we work to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions melting their sea-ice habitat and keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground.”