Proposed Arctic Ringed Seal Critical Habitat - Q&A
Questions and Answers about proposed Arctic ringed seal critical habitat
Arctic ringed seals, which occur in Alaska, were listed as threatened under the ESA in December 2012. While Arctic ringed seals presently exist in relatively high numbers, they face significant threats from long-term climate alteration of their sea ice habitat. Many aspects of the ringed seal’s life cycle depend on the availability of suitable sea ice and on-ice snow cover at the right time of the year in areas with sufficient food. Ringed seals are able to create and maintain breathing holes in the ice. They construct lairs over their breathing holes where snow depths are sufficient. These lairs are occupied for resting, pupping, and nursing. Ringed seals also use sea ice to bask in the sun as they molt. Ringed seals eat a variety of fish and invertebrates. Primary ringed seal prey include Arctic cod, saffron cod, shrimps, and amphipods.
Critical habitat is a term defined and used in the Endangered Species Act. It is the geographic area(s) that contains habitat features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. A critical habitat designation does not set up a refuge or sanctuary for the species. It has no specific regulatory impact on activities that do not require a permit, funding, or other action from a federal agency.