NMFS considers critical habitat designation for Beaufort bowheads

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering designating parts of the Beaufort Sea as critical habitat for the bowhead whale, according to an announcement Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, petitioned the fisheries service to have 26.5 million acres declared critical habitat for the whales. The group says oil and gas exploration and development in the Beaufort Sea would expose the animals to noise, oil spills and collisions with ships. Bowheads have been listed as an endangered species since 1970.

The Fisheries Service said it would consider the petition, which could result in a critical habitat designation within two years.

The Endangered Species Act defines critical habitat as an area essential for the survival and recovery of a species. The designation restricts the types of activities that would be permitted in an area considered critical to the whale's recovery.

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