Northern Fur Seals in Alaska
Northern fur seals on Bogoslof Island. Photo: Michael Williams, permit #782-1708, NOAA Fisheries
The Alaska Regional Office of NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the protection, conservation and management of North Pacific and Bering Sea northern fur seals. About 50 percent of the population of fur seals breeds on the five Pribilof Islands. The Pribilof Islands' northern fur seal population was listed as depleted in June 1988 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) because the population declined to less than 50 percent of late 1950's population levels.
NMFS manages human sources of fur seal mortality like commercial fishery interactions, subsistence harvests, and entanglement in derelict fishing gear and other marine debris. Fishery interactions can include fisheries bycatch and indirect effects like competition for commercial fish species. Other threats include oil spills, chronic pollution, collisions, habitat degradation, illegal harvests, and harassment which are all manageable through communication, planning, and collaboration. Natural factors like predation, weather, and prey also strongly influence fur seal behavior and ultimately survival and reproduction.
Harvest management of northern fur seals on the Pribilof Islands has a long history, which began when Russians brought Aleuts to the islands as sealing crews in 1788. ...more »»
Subsistence Harvest Management
A subsistence harvest was initiated in 1985 by a NMFS emergency interim rule, a final rule in 1986, and is regulated under the authority of section 105(a) of the Fur Seal Act. Under a co-management agreement with NOAA Fisheries, the tribal governments on St. Paul and St. George have a formal role in management of the harvest of fur seals to meet their subsistence needs; the commercial harvest for fur has always exceeded the subsistence harvest for meat on the Pribilof Islands. Fewer than 1000 juvenile male fur seals have been harvested annually since 2000. To address population concerns about the accidental harvest of young females, NMFS revised the northern fur seal harvest regulations and removed the option to extend the harvest season beyond August 8th, and set a 3-year rather than annual harvest to relieve the information collection burden on the community.
Subsistence Harvest Estimates
Barrels containing 30-40 seal skins each during the commercial harvest period on the Pribilof Islands. This photo was taken on St. Paul. Photo: NARA
- 79 FR 45728, August 6, 2014. Final estimates for fur seal subsistence needs for 2014–2016, and the annual fur seal subsistence harvest numbers on St. George and St. Paul Islands for 2011-2013. Effective September 5, 2014.
- 79 FR 27550, May 14, 2014. Notice of availability for the annual fur seal subsistence harvest summaries for 2011-2013 and proposed annual estimates of fur seal subsistence harvests for 2014-2016 on the Pribilof Islands, Alaska. Comment period through June 13, 2014.
- 77 FR 6682, February 9, 2012. Final estimates for fur seal subsistence needs for 2011-2013, and the annual fur seal subsistence harvest numbers on St. George and St. Paul Islands for 2008-2010. Effective March 12, 2012.
- 76 FR 45499, July 29, 2011. Notice of availability for the annual fur seal subsistence harvest summaries for 2008 to 2010 and proposed annual estimates of fur seal subsistence needs for 2011-2013 on the Pribilof Islands, Alaska. Public comment period through August 29, 2011.
- Historical triennial fur seal subsistence harvest quotas: 2008-2010, 2005-2007
- Independent reports of the subsistence harvest on St. Paul (provided by a certified veterinarian for NOAA Fisheries): 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1988, 1987, 1986, 1984.
In 1994, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was amended to include section 119. It reads, "The Secretary may enter into cooperative agreements with Alaska Native Organizations to conserve marine mammals and provide co-management of subsistence use by Alaska Natives." Numerous cooperative agreements have been singed between NMFS and various Alaska Native Organizations. Pribilof Island Aleuts provided the primary labor and in later years coordination for the commercial harvest from 1867-1984. NMFS managers pursued a more active harvest management and monitoring role for local tribal members from 1985 through 2001. Thus NMFS and the tribal governments on both St. Paul and St. George had already been co-managing subsistence use of fur seals before their co-management agreements were signed in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Subsistence Harvest Reports
The tribal governments of St. George and St. Paul manage, monitor and report their subsistence marine mammal harvests with their co-management partners at NMFS.
- St. George Island: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006
- St. Paul Island: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1986, 1985
Aleut Community of St. George Island Traditional Council Petition
Man holding up a finished fur seal pelt on St. Paul Island. Photo: NARA
- Final rule to modify the subsistence harvest regulations for the Eastern Pacific
stock of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) based on a petition from the Pribilof Island
Aleut Community of St. George Island, Traditional Council. The final rule authorizes
Pribilovians of St. George Island to harvest up to 150 male young of the year fur seals annually
during a new autumn harvest season from all breeding and hauling grounds, consistent with
traditional practices, to meet the community’s nutritional and cultural needs. Effective October 30, 2014.
- Proposed rule to modify the subsistence harvest regulations
- Notice of a public meeting May 24, 2011 at the Anchorage Marriott about the requested changes to the Northern Fur Seal Harvest Regulations that govern the subsistence harvest of northern fur seals on St. George Island.
- Notice of receipt of a petition from the Pribilof Island Community of St. George Island, Traditional Council to revise regulations governing the subsistence taking of northern fur seals to allow residents of St. George Island to take male fur seal young of the year during the fall. Public comment period through June 22, 2010.
- St. George Island Traditional Council Resolution 10-06, September 2006
Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government Petition
- Revised Petition: April 2015, November 2014
- 77 FR 41168, July 12, 2012. Notice of receipt of a petition for rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Pribilof Island Community of St. Paul Island, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island-Tribal Government petitioned NMFS to revise regulations governing the subsistence taking of northern fur seals on St. Paul Island. Comment period through September 10, 2012.
- St. Paul Island Tribal Government Letter to NMFS, May 10, 2010
- St. Paul Island Tribal Government Letter to NMFS, May 3, 2010
- St. Paul Island Tribal Government Letter to NMFS, October 2009
- NMFS Letter to St. Paul Island Tribal Government, May 2007
- St. Paul Island Tribal Government Resolution 2007-09 to NMFS supporting changing of or a moratorium on northern fur seal subsistence harvest regulations, February 2007
- 78 FR 42756, July 17, 2013. Notice that the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island has applied for an amendment to Scientific Research Permit No. 14330-01. Comment period through August 16, 2013.
- Fur Seal Disentanglement Project, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, Tribal Government, Ecosystem Conservation Office (External Link)
- Notice of Intent to prepare an Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) that will evaluate alternatives which include petitioned changes to the regulations governing management of the northern fur seal subsistence harvest on St. Paul Island, Alaska. Comment period through August 24, 2015.
- Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Management of the Subsistence Harvest of Northern Fur Seals on St. George Island, AK, August 2014
- Dear Reviewer Letter, August 2014
- Record of Decision, September 2014
- Notice of availability of the Final SEIS, August 2014
- Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, May 2014
- Notice of availability of the Draft SEIS. Comment period through July 14, 2014.
- Notice of NMFS intent to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, February 2014
- Scoping Report for Northern Fur Seal Harvest Regulations Environmental Assessment, April 2012
- Biological Opinion on Activities Authorized on Steller Sea Lions and Northern Fur Seals, June 2007
- Final Programmatic EIS for Steller Sea Lion and Northern Fur Seal Research, May 2007
- Final Environmental Impact Statement - Setting the Annual Subsistence Harvest of Northern Fur Seals on the Pribilof Islands, May 2005
Salting seal skins on the Pribilof Islands. Photo: NARA
- Conservation plan for the Eastern Pacific stock of northern fur seal, December 2007
- 72 FR 73766, December 28, 2007. Notice of Availability of Final Eastern Pacific Northern Fur Seal Stock Conservation Plan
- Related Documents
- Draft Conservation Plan for the Eastern Pacific Stock of Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus), May 2006
- 71 FR 32306, June 5, 2006. Notice of Availability for the Draft Conservation Plan. Comment period through August 4, 2006.
- Conservation Plan for the Northern Fur Seal, 1993 (11 MB)
- 53 FR 17888, May 18, 1988. Final rule designating the Pribilof Island population of North Pacific fur seals as depleted under the MMPA.
Research and Ecology
- Entangelment of northern fur seals on the Pribilof Islands
- Harvest Management History
- Depleted Status
- 53 FR 17888, May 18, 1988
- Fur Seal Act and Treaties
- Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)
- 1994 Amendments to the MMPA
- Memorandum of Agreement for Negotiation of Marine Mammal Protection Act Section 119 Agreements between the Department of Commerce, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Geological Survey and the Indigenous People's Council for Marine Mammals, August 1997
- Endangered Species Act (ESA)
- Additional Marine Mammal Regulations and Protections
- Stop Rats in Alaska (External Link)
Pribilof Islands NMFS' Facility Maintenance
- 75 FR 21233, April 23, 2010. Notice that NMFS issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization to NMFS, Alaska Region for the take of small numbers of marine mammals, by Level B harassment, incidental to conducting replacement and repair of northern fur seal research observation towers and walkways on St. Paul Island, Alaska, from April to June and December 2010.
- 90 Day Report: Marine mammal monitoring of the replacement and repair of fur seal research observation towers and walkways on St. Paul Island, Alaska, February 2011