Political Issues in the Pribilof Islands Resulting from Resource Development

This page was written by Jeanette Wolak and Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.

Fisherman with Halibut on St. George Island, Pribilof Islands, AK. Details

Environmental Policies

The Aleuts of the Pribilof Islands have faced many environmental challenges over the last century. The delicate ecological balance of the islands depends on a number of factors, including wildlife management and pollution containment.

Biologists and ecologists closely monitor populations of seabirds, marine mammals and fish in the Bering Sea. The communities of the Pribilof Islands have several policies in place to try to preserve this unique diversity. For example, fishing vessels that come ashore on the islands are carefully inspected for rodents. The introduction of rats (more info) onto the Pribilofs would destroy the seabird population. Many of the seabird species are already endangered.

Policies also exist to address pollution that occurred in the Pribilof Islands during WWII. The U.S. government occupied St. Paul and St. George Islands during wartime, and the Aleuts of the Pribilofs were moved into internment camps on mainland Alaska (Corbett and Swibold, 2000 ). The islands were turned into storage grounds for army equipment and hazardous materials. The cleanup of these materials has taken several decades, but is now nearing completion.

Economic Policies

In addition to environmental policies, the Aleuts have recently had to implement new economic policies that reflect the shift from a sealing industry to fishing and crabbing. To learn more about the economic history of the Aleuts of the Pribilof Islands, click here .

For over a century, the primary source of income and interest in the Pribilofs concerned the hunting of northern fur seals and other marine mammals (Corbett and Swibold, 2000 ). Today, less than 1,000 seals are harvested each year and only for the purpose of subsistence living on St. Paul and St. George. The Aleuts of the islands have been forced to shift their economy toward other interests, including fishing and ecotourism.

Many commercial vessels pass through the Bering Sea. Over fishing has led to a decrease in the distribution of cod, salmon, halibut and other large fish in the Bering Sea ecosystem (more info) . Aleut fishermen are forced to venture farther and farther each year from the Pribilofs in order to compete in the Bering Sea commercial fishing industry. In addition, fishing quotas are in place to limit the amount of fish individually-owned and commercial fishing vessels can take each season.

Crabbing in the Pribilofs has also been a source of economic input for Aleut communities on St. Paul and St. George. However, crabbing seasons are very short, and the income from this industry varies significantly from year to year. Strict policies and quotas are established to control the amount of crabs taken and to try to stabilize this industry and the crab populations in the Bering Sea (Crab Fishery Management (more info) ).

To further investigate policy issues in the Pribilofs from resource development, check out the links below:

General Policy Resources in the Pribilofs

Resources containing general information about political issues in the Pribilofs.

Environmental Policies in the Pribilofs

Resources containing information about environmental policies in the Pribilofs.

Economic Policies in the Pribilofs

Resources containing information about economic policies in the Pribilofs.

For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.