NOAA Fisheries will host five public hearings in Alaska - one each in Nome, Anchorage, Kotzebue, Barrow, and Bethel - on a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for Arctic ringed seals under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries opened a 90-day public comment period on the proposal when it was published in the Federal Register on December 9, 2014.
The proposed critical habitat in the northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas provides sea ice conditions that are essential for ringed seal pupping, nursing, basking, and molting. Primary prey species to support ringed seals also occur within the proposed critical habitat area.
The primary effect of critical habitat is that federal agencies are required to ensure that the actions they authorize, fund, or carry are not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The proposed critical habitat designation would not include any regulatory restrictions on human activities. Designation of critical habitat would not affect subsistence harvest of ringed seals by Alaska Natives.
The five public hearings are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
- Nome: January 28, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m., at Old St. Joe's Hall
- Anchorage: February 2, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m., at the Z.J. Loussac Public Library, Wilda Marston Theatre
- Kotzebue: February 17, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m., at the Northwest Arctic Borough Assembly Chambers
- Barrow February 23, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m., at the Iñupiat Heritage Center
- Bethel: February 26, 2015, 4 - 7 p.m., at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center
During each hearing, the agency will provide a brief opening presentation before accepting public comments for the record. Both written and spoken comments will be accepted at the hearings.
The public may also submit written comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0114, by either of the following methods:
- Electronic Submission: Click the "Comment Now!" icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
- Mail: Address written comments to Jon Kurland, Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668
All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change, including any personal information provided. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter "N/A" in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).
Written comments on the proposed critical habitat designation must be received by March 9, 2015.
For more information, visit the Alaska Region's ice seal page.