In an insightful article that highlights the clash between major industry and wildlife as the Arctic warms, Inside Climate News reports on the ruling this week that Arctic ringed seals must be protected under the Endangered Species Act because of their reliance on the sea ice, which is rapidly disappearing as the planet warms.

“The seals—named for the light-colored circles that dot their coats—build lairs on the surface of the sea ice to birth and protect their young. That puts them, like other species that rely on the ice, in a precarious position as it vanishes.

Ringed Seal Habitat Map

Protecting the seals means guarding their habitat, and that could impinge on oil and gas operations along Alaska’s waters, which the state relies on for revenue. The protected status comes with a requirement that the federal government designate areas as “critical habitat” for the seals. That could complicate efforts by the industry—and by the state and federal government—to increase development in the area.

The Arctic has been seeing record lows in the extent of sea ice for this time of year. January 2018’s ice extent was even less than a year earlier, when it was at a record low for the month. There was roughly 42,500 square miles less ice this year than in 2017—an area of missing ice about the size of Virginia. And January’s ice extent is more than 5 million square miles below the historical average for the month from 1981-2010.”

Read the full story: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13022018/climate-change-arctic-ringed-seal-endangered-species-act-court-ruling-sea-ice-habitat-alaska.

Cover Photo credit: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.