The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has agreed that a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to list ribbon seals as threatened or endangered provided enough information to justify a more detailed investigation.
The Center is concerned that,
The ribbon seal faces likely global extinction in the wild by the end of this century due toglobal warming which is resulting in the rapid melt of this species’ sea-ice habitat. Sea icerepresents the only substrate where ribbon seals rest, give birth, nurse their pups, and molt and where weaned pups rest as they learn aquatic proficiency and foraging skills. In addition to providing habitat for critical life cycle activities (reproduction, molting, resting), sea ice provides numerous other important functions for the ribbon seal, including isolation from polar bears and terrestrial predators, greater proximity to food resources, and passive transport to new feeding areas.
NMFS's finding means that it has until the end of the year to decide whether or not to list ribbon seals as threatened or endangered. At this time NMFS has also decided to look into the status of several other "ice" seals as well, but these investigations are being given a lower priority.
NMFS's Alaska Region has set up a web page where it will be posting materials related to its investigation: Ice Seals. This already has a copy of the Center's petition, the Federal Register notice with the Agency's finding, and a lot of other materials.
Photo: Mike Cameron, NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Other posts about Arctic marine mammals: Marine mammals .
Minor edits on March 29.