July 18, 2013

Are ribbon seals more adaptable than polar bears?

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it would not list the ribbon seal under the Endangered Species Act.  The agency explained that the species is very adaptable, and should be able to survive the negative impacts of declining sea ice habitat.  That is an interesting conclusion, because the Fish & Wildlife Service came to precisely the opposite result with respect to the polar bear.  For the polar bear, the Service concluded that declining sea ice habitat would make survival much more difficult for the polar bear, justifying its listing as a threatened species.  Arguably, one can distinguish the two species on the ground that the ribbon’s seals current numbers eight to ten times those of the polar bear.  Nevertheless, it is interesting to see a federal agency conclude that climate change’s impact will not be so severe as to lead to the listing of all Arctic species.

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