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NOAA hearings set for ringed, bearded seals

The National Marine Fisheries Service will take public comment in Anchorage, Barrow and Nome in March on proposals to list some ringed and bearded seals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement yesterday in Juneau came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees NMFS.

On Dec. 10, NOAA published proposed rules to list as threatened under the ESA four subspecies of ringed seals found in the Arctic Ocean, Bering, Okhotsk and Baltic seas, and Lake Ladoga, in Russia, as well as two distinct population segments of bearded seals found in the Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian and Okhotsk seas.

The original 60-day public comment period was extended an additional 45 days and ends on March 25.

The Anchorage hearing will be held March 7, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the lower level of the Egan Center. At Barrow on March 22, the hearing will be held from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Inupiat Heritage Center. Telephone access to the Barrow hearing will be available at the North Slope Borough Teleconferencing Centers in Kaktovik, Wainwright, Point Lap, Point Hope, Nuiqsut, Atqasuk, and Anaktuvuk Pass.

The time and date for a third hearing, at Nome, is still to be announced.

Written comments should be identified by "RIN 0648-XZ58" for bearded seals and "RIN 0648-XZ59" for ringed seals, and send to Kaja Brix, assistant regional administrator, Protected Resources, Alaska Region, NMFS, ATTN: Ellen Sebastian, by any of the following methods:

Electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal website at http://www/,

By mail to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668; via fax to 907-586-7557, or hand delivered to the Federal Building, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau, AK

The proposed rules, status review reports and other related materials are at

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