The Pacific bearded seal's future is on thin ice, literally and figuratively. The seals, known for their long, mustache-like whiskers, live and feed off the ice flows that cover the shallow waters off the coast of Alaska and the Arctic. Those flows are expected to decline dramatically, shrinking as climate change drives temperatures north. By 2095, loss of ice will leave the Okhotsk and Beringia bearded seal population segments endangered, according to estimates by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
As a result of the threat posed by climate change, NFMS listed the seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a designation that comes with significant protections. And that listing, the Ninth Circuit ruled on Monday, was wholly allowable, rejecting a challenge that the listing was too speculative.