ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The National Marine Fisheries Service has rejected a petition to set aside critical habitat for the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales.
In Friday's edition of the Federal Register, the agency said critical habitat for the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort stock of bowhead whales is not needed. The agency says the population is increasing and that habitat degradation is not having a negative impact.
NMFS officials say past declines in area bowhead stocks were due to commercial whaling, not habitat problems.
The petition seeking critical habitat was filed in February 2000 by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Marine Biodiversity Protection Center. Those groups wanted protected areas set aside in the Chukchi Sea and a wide swath of the Beaufort, stretching from Point Barrow to the Canadian border.
NMFS is basing its decision on results of a comprehensive survey of the Western Arctic stock conducted in the spring of last year.
Analysis continues, but preliminary information indicates that those bowheads are abundant.
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