WASHINGTON (CN) – The southern population of the spotted seal is threatened by the loss of arctic sea ice resulting from global warming and should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Spotted seals are closely related to harbor seals, are similarly massive, and live an average of 30 to 35 years. They are widely distributed across the continental shelf from the Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian, and Okhotsk seas south to the Sea of Japan and the northern Yellow Sea were the southern population segment feeds.
The agency’s action is in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity to protect the species, which noted that lack of effective mechanisms to regulate global greenhouse gas emissions meant that protections against trade and hunting of the species are essential because regulatory regimes exist that may help conserve the southern population segment.
Although spotted seals have proved somewhat adaptable at using islands and coastal outcroppings for birthing and whelping their pups, they prefer sea ice. Sea ice provides greater safety from predation than land based sites, and pups born on ice are less likely to succumb to disease than their land born counterparts.
Because the protected population occurs entirely outside the United States, the agency did not designate critical habitat for the species. Instead, the act prohibits the import of the species into the United States, the possession, sales, transport or delivery, killing or harassment of protected species by ships that enter U.S. ports or individuals subject to the legal jurisdiction of the United States.