12/4/14 NOAA considers designating 35,000 sq. miles in Arctic waters as critical habitat for seals
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering designating some 35,000 square miles of ocean in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas as special habitat for ringed seals, which are the main prey of polar bears. The seals were declared threatened in 2012 due to the loss of sea ice from climate warming. Ringed seals use sea ice for breeding and molting.
Critical habitat designation means permitting agencies have to determine the effects of activities on seals' habitat, and take precautions to ensure the habitat is not harmed. NOAA will take comments on the designation for 90 days.
A new front has opened in the turf war between reindeer and caribou on the Seward Peninsula. A caribou herd there is growing as domesticated reindeer herds diminish. As Francesca Fenzi of KNOM reports, caribou herds, which migrate, often take reindeer with them when they leave in the spring, something reindeer herders don't like to see.
Reindeer are the responsibility of the herders, while caribou are public resources under the purview of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (DFG). If the herd near Serpentine Hot Springs turns out to be caribou, DFG could radio collar them and track their movements, allowing herders to move their reindeer out of the caribou's migration path. Hunters could also harvest caribou. If the herd is reindeer, herders could retrieve them.
The first step in deciding how to handle the animals is to identify whether they're caribou or reindeer. DFG in Nome is collecting tissue samples from animals taken by hunters in the Serpentine Hot Springs and Shishmaref area over the summer.
Iditarod 2015 will have the race's highest payout to the winner. The first to Nome will receive a $70,000 purse; that's $20,000 more than last year's first place prize.