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Ribbon Seal Is On Its Own

In the summer I explained that the Bush Administration had broken the law by refusing to provide a decision about the status of the ribbon seal under the Endangered Species Act in the required amount of time.

Now, nine months late, that decision has finally been provided: There will be no protection for the ribbon seal under the Endangered Species Act.

ribbon sealThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced its conclusion that, even with the reduction of Arctic ice that comes with global warming, it is likely that ice will still form in wintertime in the Bering Sea and parts of the Arctic Ocean. Ribbon seals depend upon sea ice for reproduction. They birth their pups there. No sea ice, no pups. No pups, no more ribbon seals.

Given the present situation, it’s reasonable to conclude that the ribbon seals, which currently number at 200,000, could survive even if the Arctic Ocean becomes ice-free in summertime. The question is the time of year at which the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea would completely melt. If that melt came too soon, and the ribbon seal pups were not ready for a life of constant swimming, enough pups might die each year to lead to the extinction of the species even though winter ice would still form.

I can see how NOAA scientists can conclude that there isn’t enough direct evidence yet to conclude that the ribbon seals will face such a situation. The trouble is that the primary cause of the climate change that is shrinking the polar sea ice – greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, produces effects long after its initiation. Once the threat to ribbon seals became certain, it could well be to late to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to save the species. In fact, it already might be too late.

Still, NOAA must deal with facts, not fears. That’s why, though I’m nervous about the future of ribbon seals, I think that the government’s decision is the proper one. This ruling should have come nine months earlier, when its implications might have become part of the presidential campaign.

Environmentalists need to consider the meaning of this ruling, which suggests that future conditions will often not provide a solid foundation for present-day action through the Endangered Species Act. Alternative routes to protection need to be planned.

4 thoughts on “Ribbon Seal Is On Its Own”

  1. tom says:

    It’s obvious by now that the Bush administration – and most other governments – don’t give a shit about the environment. They still think it’s an endless source of free capital and service, like the trees and rivers, to exploit to their hearts (and wallets) content. The industrial revolution, in hindsight, seems not to have been well thought out. And now that the sciences have caught up to what we’re doing to the planet, i think we’re on our way out, since it will take far too long to change the way we live OFF of the earth the way we do now. The earth will rid itself of us like it does every other cause of imbalance: we’ll continue along until our food growing seasons are unstable, mineral, animal, fish and mineral resources(including ores) become scarce and the natural systems that have kept us from going too far one way (ice age) or the other (too hot for plant and animal life to exist) like the gulf stream will finally react to our stupidity and arrogance and simply shut down for about a hundred thousand years or so.

  2. Will C. Soon says:

    My name is Marvin and I have a brain the size of a planet. All I do is park these cars… I’m so depressed.

  3. beccy says:

    hey i just wanted to say that i am doing a report on ribbon seals and i would like to know more .also, George bush can suck his dads dick, that is if his dad does have one, he doesnt give a shit and one day he’ll say “geez i wonder why the world is coming to an end?” and i’ll say “you dipshit, you did this you ass hole ,bitch you didnt give a shit and now we have to depend on obama to fix everything you ass hole.

  4. reba says:

    hell yes bitches i agree two he can suck hes dads dick

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