ANCHORAGE (AP) Alarmed by overfishing, poaching, pollution and ecosystem shifts in the Bering Sea, an international coalition of scientists, managers and community leaders has formed to push the United States and Russia to work together to manage those waters.
The 22 members of the International Bering Sea Forum will combine scientific data with traditional Native knowledge, organizers said Tuesday.
The fish and mammals of the Bering Sea ''don't use political boundaries,'' said executive director Catriona Glazebrook, speaking during a telephone press conference from the group's offices at Pacific Environment in Oakland, Calif. ''They move freely from one side to the other, so any type of management or lack of management will impact the entire ecosystem.''
The 13 American members of the group include Vera Alexander, dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Native activist Larry Merculieff of the Bering Sea Council of Elders; and former Alaska Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.
The group plans to take stands on fisheries and ecosystem issues, then push both the U.S. and Russian governments to manage the sea together with an eye toward protecting resources.
The forum has come together amid growing global urgency over the damage done to the world's oceans.
Last spring, Canadian researchers reported in Nature that overfishing had wiped out 90 percent of the ocean's top predatory fish and reduced stocks to alarmingly low levels in virtually every sea. A month later, the Pew Ocean Commission concluded that overfishing threatened more than 36 percent of wild fish populations, and raised alarms about industrial development, climate change, invasive species and pollution.
In that global context, the Bering Sea might seem pristine, still producing more than half the seafood consumed in the United States while feeding millions in the Far East. Yet the ecosystem has been shifting. Some species, such as Steller sea lions, are crashing. Yet jellyfish have spread so thickly at certain times that fishermen started calling one area along the Alaska Peninsula ''the slime bank.''
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