Pew Applauds Protection of Northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait

New federal measures will support critical habitat, cultural resources, indigenous communities


WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts commends today’s action by President Barack Obama to honor the request of more than 70 federally recognized tribes to protect U.S. waters in the northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait off the west coast of Alaska.

The president signed an executive order designating the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area and establishing safeguards from large-scale shipping and other industrial activities while also maintaining existing protections from bottom-trawl fishing. The order also provides for increased tribal participation and inclusion of traditional knowledge in federal decisions affecting the area.

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The action comes at the request of indigenous residents of the coastal region, the Bering Sea Elders Group, and two nonprofit consortia representing more than 70 federally recognized tribes—Kawerak Inc. and the Association of Village Council Presidents.

Eleanor Huffines, who leads Pew’s U.S. Arctic conservation work, issued the following statement:

“This is a significant community-led action that will help preserve the health and resilience of the northern Bering Sea ecosystem—including its migratory pathways, habitats, and breeding grounds—while sustaining access and food security for indigenous people. The Bering Strait region is one of the most historically, environmentally, and culturally important parts of our global oceans,” she said.

“In an era of progressing climate change, with the Bering Strait and northern Bering Sea region ice-free for more of the year than ever before, today’s executive order is intended to help maintain the health of the productive and culturally valuable marine ecosystem while ensuring sustainable economic opportunities for local communities. This decision is supported by traditional knowledge, science, and the principles of stewardship and ocean conservation that the administration has championed. These principles were also recently adopted in the joint U.S.-Canadian shared Arctic leadership model.”

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