St. George Island

by Guest Blogger

July 7, 2006

The following posting is from oceans campaigner John, who is onboard in the Bering Sea…

We pulled in to St. George Island this morning, and the first thing we saw was a large sign declaring that rat-infested ships were unwelcome.  Rats and other mammalian predators can wreak havoc on islands ecosystems, and the Pribilofs have worked hard to remain rat-free.  It only takes one pregnant rat to start a cycle that can quickly lead to disaster – particularly for sea birds, which nest on cliffs and are extremely vulnerable.

We planned to just grab a few boxes of gear at the post office before getting back on the water to start looking for killer whales.  Of course, this being St. George, our short trip ashore included walking by a snowy owl and two unbelievably cute arctic fox cubs.  And as much as we wanted to start looking for killer whales, it was impossible to walk by the bird cliffs without taking some time to appreciate the enormous numbers of sea birds.

Populations of fish-eating birds have been declining here in recent years.  Red-legged kittiwakes and murres have not been reproducing well, a sign that they are not getting enough food.  Unfortunately for the birds, fisheries managers do not account for their needs when setting catch limits.  Climate may be a factor as well, but it seems clear that fishing is contributing to the birds’ decline.

The weather is good today, with minimal fog and calm seas that are perfect for spotting whales.  We’ll keep you posted on what we find!

– John 

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