The and the rest of the species of seal

The Animal:            The
bearded seal is scientifically known as Erignathus
barbatus. The word barbatus, which is the species of the seal, means
bearded which is why this seal is called the bearded seal. Erignathus barbatus is called barbatus because of its thick
whiskers and “beard”. The young of bearded seals are simply called bearded seal
pups. The genus name Erignathus is also exclusive to the bearded seals. The
family name Phocidae means that these are considered “true seals”, which means they
have flippers that are specialized for swimming and they do not have external
ears. Other “true seals” include the hooded seal, the bearded seal, and the
leopard seal. Seals are then part of the order Carnivora which means they are
meat eaters. From Carnivora they are part of the class Mammalia which means
seals are vertebrates, that have skin covered with fur, and they feed their
young with milk produced in their bodies. Seals are part of the phylum Chordata
meaning they have a spinal cord. Finally, bearded seals are part of the kingdom
Animalia which classifies them as animals.Bearded seals are,
on average, 2.3 meters long and can weigh up to 250 kg. Males are known to be
smaller than female bearded seals. Bearded seals can have light grey or dark
brown hair with their back being typically darker than their fronts. The
flippers and face of bearded seal are usually a rust brown color. The flippers
of the bearded seal are known to be square shaped and their heads are small for
their bodies. Their head is considered only proportionally small because the
body of the bearded seal is so long. The distinguishing factor between the
bearded seal and the rest of the species of seal is that bearded seals have
their signature mustache. Most other seals do not have whiskers as thick as the
bearded seal, hence the name. ! Bearded seals have small ear holes and another
set of flippers that face backwards to propel them effortlessly through the
water.                                      
                                                                            Although bearded seals
can swim with ease, the flippers they have make it difficult for them to move
on land very easily. This is a difference between true seals and other species
of seal. In the water, they are exceptionally fast which helps them to catch
prey and to escape predators. Bearded seals can dive to up to 200 meters to get
food. They eat mostly mollusks and crustaceans but they will also eat some
species of fish such as the arctic cods or flatfishes.Erignathus barbatus are found mainly in the Arctic Ocean. In these
waters two subspecies of E. barbatus
are found: E. barbatus barbatus and E. barbatus nauticus. E.b. barbatus is
found in the Arctic that is near the Atlantic Ocean and E.b. nauticus is found off the shores of Canada and around Norway.

Although they tend to stay in the north, some bearded seals have been seen off
the shores of Japan. Bearded seals also tend to like living in shallow water up
to 200 meters so they have easier access to their main food sources.

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Bearded seals prefer to
live where there are large areas of sea ice. Packs of sea ice are also referred
to as ice floes. Bearded seals migrate depending on the direction and speed of
the ice floes. During the winter months, the seals will follow ice floes south
and they will follow them north in the summer. Bearded seals ride the ice floes
to help them access shallow waters to give them more access to their food
sources. In the summer months, if there is a lack of ice floes bearded seals
will just lay on gravel beaches and land. Status:

            For
the bearded seal, it is not clear whether they should be classified as threatened
or endangered. In 2008 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) started to
investigate what the status of this species is. The same year the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also received a petition to review the
bearded seal to be listed as either threatened or endangered. According to the
United States Endangered Species Act and endangered species is classified as “any
species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant
portion of its range” and a threatened species is seen as “any species which is
likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout
all or a significant portion of its range”. In both circumstances, the bearded
seal was put under review because the threat of climate change is becoming a
bigger problem for the habitat of the bearded seal. The increase in global
temperatures is causing the sea ice to melt which is where bearded seals spend
most of their time. The NMFS created a Biological Review Team (BRT) to further
investigate the status of the bearded seal. The BRT has investigated multiple
possible threats to bearded seals: current/future destruction/modification of
the species habitat, overused for educational or recreational purposes, disease
or over predation, and other human or natural factors.

            The
habitat of the bearded seal is the main concern of the NMFS. Global
temperatures are already considerably high and are only expected to continue
rising in the foreseeable future. The melting of the sea ice is a huge concern
because the seals use the sea ice for whelping and nursing their young. Along
with the rise of global temperatures, the increase of carbon dioxide emissions
will cause the water to become more acidic which will cause trouble in various
aspects of the bearded seal habitat such as their prey populations. Higher
oceanic acidity will disrupt the trophic levels and cause different animals to
live at different depths. This area is the most threatening to the bearded
seals

            The
overuse of seals for educational or recreational purposes is not a large threat
and is not predicted to become a significant threat. The biggest area of threat
in this category is the natives of the Arctic which have used and continue to
use bearded seals for their skin and blubber. This threat is still not
predicted to make a big enough change in bearded seal population.

            Many
different diseases have been known to occur in bearded seals. With climate
change, there comes a risk of the seals being exposed to new diseases that
their bodies may not be able to handle. As climate change continues the polar
bear, the major predator of the bearded seal, may also become endangered
causing the level of predation to decrease from polar bears. However, the
predation of bearded seals by other predators such as killer whales or sharks
may increase.

            Human
activity and contamination is another area in which the BRT investigated. Oil
and gas spills or large shipping vessels have the potential to impact the
bearded seal populations. These factors were seen as less significant to the
status of bearded seals compared to the risk that climate change has on the
seals.

            The
population size of the bearded seal is about 188,000 which is a dramatic change
from the estimated 450,000 in the 1980s. It is hard to tell the actual
population of this species because they are all so widespread so it is
difficult to survey them. With future sea ice melting the approximate
population is expected to drop dramatically. As of now the breaded seals are
not fully listed as endangered or threatened but cases are still being made for
them to be included. The status of the bearded seal is expected to range from
medium to highly threatened in the near future.     

Reestablishment:

            In
the US, the hunting of bearded seals is prohibited unless it is by and Alaskan
native who needs the materials of the seal to survive. The Canadian government
has the hunting of bearded seals managed by the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans and other regional resource boards across the country. In Norway, only
licensed hunters can shoot bearded seals in certain areas during certain times
of the year.  Russia allows for
subsistence harvesting of bearded seals for the aboriginal Russian people but
there is only a certain amount they are allowed to catch per year. Russia is
the only country that allows the hunting of bearded seals but has a limit.

            Since
bearded seals are not in severe danger of extinction they are allowed to roam
free in the wild. If the population starts to really dwindle then they would be
brought into captivity to try to reestablish a smaller population. The only
obstacles that governments are facing is the problem in controlling climate
change. If climate changer were to be brought under control the question of the
bearded seals being endangered in the future would not be such a big question.

            Even
though they supported the bearded seals be listed as threatened, recent
evaluations by the BRT have determined that bearded seals have bounced between
multiple ice ages and warmer interglacial periods. The population of the
bearded seal is remaining the same if not growing slightly. Because of the fact
that Bearded seals have lived for nearly two million years there is a
possibility that they may eventually become unlisted due to their survival rate
through past ice ages.

Future Implications:

            I
believe that the population of bearded seals will be sustained. The reasoning
for the sudden drop of population is probably due to the unexpected change of
temperature. The bearded seals have adapted before and they will adapt again to
climate change. As stated by the BRT the bearded seals have jumped between ice
ages and interglacial periods for the past two million years. I think after the
global temperatures stabilize the population of bearded seals will start to
increase and eventually return to the normal population size.   

            I
think that any hunting or poaching of the animal population should be
prohibited for the next few years just to ensure that the population does grow.

After the population noticeably rises the protection implements that are in
place now should be restored. After the population reaches its average
population size normal activity should be resumed but still be monitored by the
government.

            The
actions taken toward reestablishing the population so far are, in my opinion, a
good attempt at trying to solve the problem. I do believe that further actions
may be necessary to fully sustain and unlist the bearded seal population.