Wildlife declines in the “ Galapagos of the North”

The Bering Sea, with its abundant marine mammal, fish and seabird species, has been compared to waters off the Galapagos Islands for its natural wealth as well as its fragility.

Over the last half century, the U.S., Russia and Japan have transformed the Bering Sea into one of the richest fisheries in the world. Both the U.S. and Russia catch half their fish from the Bering Sea. The Bering’s western part is Russian territory, and the eastern portion belongs to the United States.

A section in the middle, the “Donut Hole,” is actually international waters. Fished out in the early 1990s, the Donut Hole has been off-limits to trawling since 1993 by international agreement. These 878,000 square miles of ice, wind and wildlife extend from the Aleutian Islands on the south to the 53- mile-wide Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska on the north.


Steller Sea Cow Last seen in 1770


Spectacled Eider Declared threatened 1993

King Eider Declined 31% 1970s-1990s

Steller’s Eider Declared threatened 1997

Common Eider Declined 90%

Common Murre Declined 67% since 1977

Thick-Billed Murre Declined 40% since 1977

Red-legged Kittiwake Declined 38% since 1977

Black-Legged Kittiwake Declined 57% since 1977

Short-Tailed Albatross Declared endangered 1970

Northern Fur Seal Declared depleted 1988

Steller Sea Lion Declared threatened 1990 Western stock declared endangered 1997 Declined 81 percent since 1979

Harbor Seal, Pribilof Group Declined 80 percent 1974-1995

Northern Sea Otter Declined 70 percent between 1992 and 2000; another 68 percent from 2000 to 2003 Proposed threatened 2004

Blue Whale Declared endangered 1970

Fin Whale Declared endangered 1970

Northern Right Whale Declared endangered 1970

Bowhead Whale Declared endangered 1970

Sei Whale Declared endangered 1970

Sperm Whale Declared endangered 1970

Humpback Whale Declared endangered 1970

Pacific Ocean Perch Overfished in 1960s

Aleutian Islands Pollock Stock declined 43 percent since 1992

Donut Hole Pollock Fishery closed 1993 Bogoslov Island Pollock Fishery closed 1993

Pribilof Area Halibut Catch down 47% since 1999

Bering Sea Sablefish Stock declined 48% since 1985

Bering Sea Greenland turbot Stock declined 74% since 1980

Rougheye Rockfish Stock declined 60% since 1980

Bristol Bay Red King Crab Sharp declines 1980-83, 1993; Fishery closed 1983, 1994, 1995; still far below 1980 peak; remains open

Pribilof Red King Crab Long-term decline Fishery closed since 1999

St. Matthew Blue King Crab Fishery closed since 1999

Declared overfished 1999

Pribilof Blue King Crab Fishery closed since 1999

Declared overfished 2002

Tanner Crab Fishery closed since 1997

Declared overfished 1999 Snow (Opilio) Crab Declined precipitously in 1999 Declared overfished 1999 Fishery remains open

Korean Hair Crab Several years of decline Fishery closed since 2001

Paul Koberstein