The bearded seal is just one of two seal species in need of Endangered Species Act protection, a new lawsuit states. (Photo : Flickr)
An environmental group sued the Obama administration on Wednesday to have Arctic seals listed as endangered species, Reuters reported. The environmentalists accused the government of failing to provide the necessary federal safeguards for the animals.
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According to Reuters, the Center for Biological Diversity has blamed the National Marine Fisheries Service for illegally delaying the listings of the ringed seal and the bearded seal on the endangered species list. Both animals are found near Alaska's northern coast.
The federal agency proposed listing the seals as a threatened species in December 2010 but failed to meet the statutory deadline to formally list the animals, Reuters reported.
Placing the seals under Endangered Species Act protections would make it the second time an animal is placed in the list due to climate change in the Arctic since the polar bear. It will also allow several protections to go into effect, such as conservation of designated "critical habitat."
Shrinking Arctic ice caps have connected to global warming and elevated levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The two types of seals depend on Arctic ice to hunt for prey, rest, give birth and nurse their young, Reuters reported.
The lawsuit issued on Wednesday stated, "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."
Reuters also reported that the Arctic seals face threats from offshore Arctic oil developments.
Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent agency for the National Marine Fisheries Service, told Reuters, "I just know that we are in process [of adding the seals to the list]."