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Alaska Files to Remove Ringed Seal from Endangered Species List

November 17, 2022

(Anchorage, AK) – The State of Alaska and the North Slope Borough filed a complaint (548KB PDF) yesterday against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to have Arctic ringed seals removed from the Endangered Species List.

NMFS listed the ringed seal as an endangered species in 2012 using obsolete methods to calculate the effect that climate change would eventually have on the population and limited commercial activities in the ringed seal’s habitat. The State filed this suit to recognize the strength of the population and allow more opportunities for commercial development in ringed seal habitat.

“NMFS’ decision to list ringed seals was not a rational application of the Endangered Species Act” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Douglas Vincent-Lang. “Ringed seals number in the millions and face no immediate threats, so the population simply doesn’t meet the definition of a “threatened species.” NMFS then compounded their irrational approach by rejecting the State’s delisting petition, which was based on state-collected science since the listing that demonstrates the seal’s continued health and resilience. The State is filing this lawsuit to bring rationality back to implementation of the ESA and its regulations.”

The complaint states, “In listing the Arctic ringed seal as a threatened species in 2012, NMFS determined that the principal threat to the species is habitat alteration stemming from climate change, relying heavily on the climate projections in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007). Yet in making the 90-Day Finding, NMFS failed to evaluate the species’ status using the more recent analysis of projected climate change presented in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (2013), or to consider scientific data on the responses to ringed seals to observed habitat loss since the 2012 listing.

“So often, federal policy surrounding Alaska is made based on inaccurate information and a ‘lock it up’ mentality by those who have either never been here or haven’t truly investigated what is going on,” said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor. “That is especially true when it comes to wildlife and marine life in our great state. All we are asking is that federal agencies truly follow the science, and not just rhetoric or myths. We believe there can be a balance between protecting species that need to be protected while still allowing reasonable development. The ringed seals are a prime example of a species that is actually thriving and does not belong on the Endangered Species List. Let’s protect what needs to be protected but remove unnecessary protections that do nothing but hinder responsible development, which is vital to the future of our state.”

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Department Media Contacts: Communications Director Patty Sullivan at or (907) 269-6368. Information Officer Sam Curtis at or (907) 269-6379.