Here’s a significant turn of events involving a story I reported on earlier: a US District Court judge ruled on Friday 25 July 2014 that the Bering/Chukchi Sea population of bearded seal (Erignatha barbatus) was improperly given ‘threatened’ species status in 2012. Judge Beistline ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) “to correct deficiencies in its study of the population.“
Bearded seals are important secondary prey species for polar bears in some regions of the Arctic (Thiemann et al. 2008), after ringed seals (which were also listed as ‘threatened’ in 2012).
Among other points made in his written decision, the judge is quoted as saying (reported here):
“A listing under the ESA based upon speculation, that provides no additional action intended to preserve the continued existence of the listed species, is inherently arbitrary and capricious.” [my emphasis]
“Arbitrary and capricious” — now that’s a slap-down. He also reportedly called the ESA listing “an abuse of discretion.”
The question is, how often have other ESA listings – not challenged in court – been based on similarly arbitrary and capricious decisions that also involved an abuse of discretion?
More quotes from Judge Beistline’s decision, and reaction to it, below.
Posted in Conservation Status, Life History, Sea ice habitat
Tagged Alaska District Court judge, arbitrary, bearded seal, conservation status, declining sea ice, ESA, Judge Beistline, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, polar bear prey, predictions, threat to survival, threatened with extinction
You’ve probably heard the argument: animal populations that have been through a major decline in numbers often have such low genetic diversity that they are extremely vulnerable to subsequent extinction.
Photo credit USGS
In an interview in late March regarding a new genetic paper on polar bear evolution (by Matt Cronin and colleagues), polar bear biologist and Polar Bears International spokesperson Steve Amstrup made a ridiculous statement: that polar bears have never experienced a rate of warming like they’ve seen over the last 30 years. I countered that easily here.
In that same interview about the Cronin et al. paper, fellow geneticist Charlotte Lindqvist offered an outdated argument against future polar bear survival that is as easy to refute as Amstrup’s “unprecedented rate of warming” nonsense.
I didn’t have time to deal with it back in April [where has the time gone?] but want to get back to it now because it’s important: there is lots of evidence to support my contention that polar bears are not more vulnerable to extinction just because they have low genetic diversity.
Posted in Conservation Status, Evolution
Tagged Amstrup, extinction, extinction risk, genetic diversity, increasing genetic diversity, Lindqvist, low genetic diversity, polar bear, population bottleneck, population size, recovery, reduced population size, threat to survival, threatened species