Lawsuit could make for a chilling fate for ice seals

Recently, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association announced a plan to sue the US government over the recent decision to list two types of ice dependent seals as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The suit claims there is 'no scientific evidence linking climate change now or in the future' to adverse effects on the newly listed ringed and bearded seals. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  

Ice seals’ population will continue to decrease as sea ice around the world disappears. As climate change worsens, ice seals may become more vulnerable to predators and disease, and have difficulty finding food, pupping and nursing.

Additionally, a lack of suitable ice means increased mortality among young seal pups. Below-average ice conditions during their birthing and nursing period have become more prevalent in recent years and the toll on newborns has been significant.

From caribou to polar bears to ice seals, too many Arctic species are already suffering at the hands of climate change. While we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also ensure that the species does not suffer at the hands of humans. 

Needless stressors like oil and gas drilling, trophy hunting, and commercial killing exacerbate increasing threats to marine mammals.

In response to needless threats like these, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has drafted a technical petition to list the two northern-most species of caribou under the ESA.

IFAW has also been fighting for a global ban in commercial trade of polar bear products, and continues to support scientific research to better understand and publicize the threats to ice-breeding harp and hooded seals in the Northwest Atlantic.

The ice seals present the government with an opportunity to show the world that the United States recognizes issues facing ice dependent species and will do what it takes to protect them. 

However, if big industry oil and gas are victorious in this lawsuit, the species will only be pushed further from the much needed protections.


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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Rikkert Reijnen, Programme Director Wildlife Crime, IFAW Netherlands
Programme Director Wildlife Crime, IFAW Netherlands
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union