U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sued over climate plight of ribbon seal
October 2009: The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace have filed a suit against the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for denying the ribbon seal Histriophoca fasciata protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), despite scientific evidence that its Arctic habitat is severely threatened by global warming.
Found in Okhotsk, Bering and Chukchi seas off Alaska and Russia, the ribbon seal’s future is further compromised by decisions to open its habitat to oil exploration and development. The Bush administration refused to extend protection under the ESA to the species, and the Obama administration is following suit.
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, President Obama’s appointee to head NOAA, has failed to respond to a formal notice of intent to sue from Greenpeace and the Center for Biological Diversity. In addition, NOAA is allowing Shell Offshore to harass ribbon seals and other marine mammals while exploring for oil in the Chukchi Sea.
The Obama administration is actively defending in court several Bush-era decisions to open up ribbon seal habitat for oil development. If the ribbon seal were listed under the ESA, oil and gas development, shipping, and greenhouse gas emissions affecting the Arctic would be subject to greater regulation.