Pribilof Islands

From Academic Kids

The Pribilof Islands (often called the Fur Seal Islands, Russian: Kotovi) are a group of four volcanic islands, part of Alaska, lying in the Bering Sea, about 200 miles north of Unalaska and 200 miles south of Cape Newenham, the nearest point on the North American mainland. The Siberian coast is roughly 500 miles away. About 200 sq km in total area, they are mostly rocky, covered with meadow and tundra, and support a human population of somewhat over 600, concentrated in the towns of St. Paul and St. George, each on an island of the same name.

Missing image
Map of the Pribilof Islands

The principal islands are St. Paul (named from St. Peter and St. Paul's Day, on which it was discovered) and St. George (probably named after Pribilof's ship). The Otter and Walrus islets are near St. Paul.

The islands were first sighted in 1767 by Joan Synd, and were visited in 1788 by Gavriil Pribilof, who discovered the fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) rookeries for which they became famous. From Russia, the islands passed with Alaska to the United States in 1867. From 1870 to 1890 the United States government leased the islands to the Alaska Commercial Company. From 1890 through 1910, the North American Commercial Company held the monopoly on seal-hunting on the islands, but the industry shrank considerably owing to pelagic sealing.

Under the Fur Seal Act of 1966, hunting of these seals is forbidden in the Pribilof Islands with the exception of subsistence hunting by Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos who live on the islands.

Today, the City of Saint Paul, located on St. Paul Island, harbors a population of approximately 500. The economy is heavily dependent on the annual opilio ("snow crab") fishery, and also on subsistence and commercial halibut harvests. Marine support services to the various commercial fleets plying the waters of the Bering Sea also contributes to the economy. The balance of economic activity on the island is government activity. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a base and LORAN-C Master station on St. Paul. The National Weather Service maintains a station on the island, and NOAA maintains a significant presence there as well.

St. George has a smaller population of approximately 150. The economy is similar to that of St Paul. Many of the residents of the islands are related. The islands are home to a majority of Alaska's Aleut population.

The Pribilof Islands are widely known as a birdwatching paradise, home to many birds that are not observed anywhere else in North America. Over 240 different species of birds have been identified there, and an estimated 2 million seabirds nest there annually. St. Paul, especially, is popular with birdwatchers, having a high cliff wall, known as Ridge Wall, above the Bering Sea. "Vagrants" (Asian songbirds drawn off-course by storm winds) are a somewhat common sighting here.

ru:Прибылова острова


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