State, NMFS Agree: Iliamna Lake Seal Listing is Not Warranted
— ADF&G Press Release

Sam Cotten, Commissioner
P.O. Box 115526
Juneau, Alaska 99811-5526

Press Release: November 16, 2016

Contact: Bruce Dale, Division Director, DWC, (907) 861-2101,

State, NMFS Agree: Iliamna Lake Seal Listing is Not Warranted

(Juneau) — The State of Alaska concurs with a decision released today by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that listing the seals of Iliamna Lake under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is unwarranted. The NMFS finding is in response to a petition submitted in 2012 bof Iliamna Lake do not qualify as a Distinct Population Segment and are therefore not a listable entity under the ESA.

Genetic information currently available indicates the seals, which appear to reside in Alaska's largest lake year-round, are North Pacific harbor seals that originated in Bristol Bay. Although limited genetic data suggest Iliamna Lake seals could be reproductively isolated from Bristol Bay harbor seals, there is not significant differentiation from neighboring seals in Bristol Bay.

"We agree with the NMFS decision," said Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale. "Identifying Iliamna Lake seals as a Distinct Population Segment is not appropriate, because the population does not differ substantially from harbor seals in Bristol Bay."

"Even if they did qualify as a Distinct Population Segment, the seals would not merit ESA listing," Dale added. "No sign of decline has been detected in the animals that overwinter in Iliamna Lake, and no threats exist indicating future decline is likely. Regional subsistence hunters report the seals are healthy and more abundant now than in the past."

Seals are seen regularly in the Kvichak River, which connects Iliamna Lake to Bristol Bay, especially when salmon are present. This suggests no physical barrier exists between seals that overwinter in Iliamna Lake and those that overwinter in Bristol Bay. Further research is needed on the biology, behavior, and habitat of Iliamna Lake seals.

In its review of the Center for Biological Diversity petition, NMFS reported that it "identified numerous factual errors, misquoted and incomplete references, and unsupported conclusions."

For more information, contact Bruce Dale at (907) 861-2101, or .