The Bering Sea is an extraordinarily productive marine ecosystem: Alaska’s fisheries provide more than half of the seafood consumed in the United States.
Pollock, cod, flatfish, halibut, crab, and salmon are abundant in the Bering Sea and form a powerful economic engine for fishing communities.
Whales, seals and seabirds flock here from afar to feed on these prolific fisheries — some staying year round, others migrating here to feed and mate.
Fur seals (left) breed on island rookeries, while walrus (above) haul out on sea ice to bear young. (Fur seal, Renate McCain/NPRB; walrus, Andrew Trites)
Sea otters (right) stay close to shore near kelp forests, plucking invertebrates from the seafloor. (Sea otter: Randall Davis)
Cetaceans abound: Fin, minke, humpback, gray, and right whales, as well as belugas and porpoises, feast on huge schools of smaller fishes and tiny crustaceans, while orcas hunt other whales, seals, or salmon.
Additionally, more than 30 different species of seabirds breed here, some 36 million individuals, from shearwaters, fulmars, kittiwakes, albatrosses, storm petrels, and puffins to murres. Nearly half of Alaska’s seabirds live in 10 colonies in the Bering Sea.
Right: Whales and seabirds converge on a "hotspot" -- an especially rich feeding area -- in the Bering Sea. (Chris Kenaly)
The Bering Sea region supplies food resources for commercial fishing industry, as well as for more than 30 Alaska Native communities, millions of seabirds, and tens of thousands of marine mammals.
This production is fueled by nutrients annually replenished from slope and oceanic waters across the very broad (>500 km) continental shelf.