Action timeline

March 26, 2008 – In response to a Center petition to grant Endangered Species Act protection to the ribbon seal, along with a subsequent notice of intent to sue, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would begin status reviews for the ribbon seal, bearded seal, ringed seal and spotted seal.

May 28, 2008 – The Center submitted a scientific petition to list the bearded, ringed and spotted seals under the Endangered Species Act.

September 4, 2008 – The National Marine Fisheries Service announced a positive finding on the Center's petition and said it would continue status reviews for all three seal species to decide whether they merit federal protection. The deadline for a listing proposal was set for May 2009.

June 4, 2009 – When the Fisheries Service failed to announce a decision on protecting the seals, the Center filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue.

September 28, 2009 – After the Center filed suit, the Fisheries Service agreed to decide on protecting the spotted seal by October 15, 2009, with decisions on the bearded and ringed seals to come by November 1, 2009.

October 15, 2009 – The Obama administration announced it would deny protection for the spotted seal, acknowledging the rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic but concluding, against scientific evidence, that the spotted seal would either adapt to a life on land or migrate to better habitat elsewhere.

October 21, 2010 – The administration finalized protection for the spotted seal in China and Russia but left the species unprotected in the United States.

December 3, 2010 – The administration proposed Endangered Species Act protection for bearded and ringed seals.

December 12, 2011 – With the bearded and ringed seals slated to be listed as threatened that week, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would delay Endangered Species Act protections for the seals for another six months.

September 12, 2012 – The Center sued the Obama administration for delaying Endangered Species Act protection for the ringed and bearded seals.

December 21, 2012 – Responding to our 2008 petition, the federal government finalized Endangered Species Act protection for the ringed and bearded seals due to climate change. 

July 19, 2013 – The Center intervened in a lawsuit to defend bearded seals from an attempt by the oil and gas industry to strip their Endangered Species Act protection.

December 2, 2014 – Ringed seals received proposed protections for more than 226 million acres of critical habitat in Alaska's Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Photo of bearded seal courtesy Flickr/foilistpeter