Environmentalists are using the courts to try to protect vanishing Arctic sea ice. In September, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit intended to protect the critical habitat of two species of seals in the US District Court in Anchorage. Even though the agency proposed listing the ringed seal and the bearded seal as threatened in 2010, nothing has been done. The suit accuses the National Marine Fisheries Service of illegally delaying listings for the two species of seals under the Endangered Species Act.
Seals use snow caves to protect their young, so the absence of Arctic ice puts “seal pups at higher risk of death from freezing and predation,” the lawsuit says. Endangered Species Act protections would protect the Arctic ice as part of the seal’s “critical habitat.”
“Global warming will impact ringed and bearded seals directly by degrading and eliminating critical sea-ice habitat, which will have devastating consequences by reducing adult reproductive success and the survival of pups and impairing their ability to molt,” the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs note that Arctic wildlife also face threats from offshore Arctic oil development.