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Agency Splits Spotted Seal Population Three Ways

WASHINGTON (CN) - The spotted seal has three distinct populations, with only the southern-most group being likely to become endangered throughout its range, according to a proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service to list that group as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency finds that the other two groups, the Okhotsk and Bering populations, are not likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. So, it took no action to protect them, beyond recognition of them as distinct populations. No critical habitat can be designated for the southern-most population because it does not live in U.S. waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity had brought suit against the NMFS after the agency failed to make a listing decision within the year required after it found that a review of the species' status was warranted.

The southern segment of the spotted seal is mainly threatened by habitat destruction, as their sea ice habitat has been modified by the warming climate. The scientific consensus projects that by mid-century, ice no longer will reliably form every year. A second major concern, also related to carbon dioxide emissions, is the modification of habitat by ocean acidification, which may alter prey populations and diminish the spotty seal's food supply.

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