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Seabirds as a subsistence and cultural resource in two remote Alaskan communities

Rebecca C. Young, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Alexander S. Kitaysky, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Courtney Carothers, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Ine Dorresteijn, Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07158-190440

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Abstract

Small rural Alaskan communities face many challenges surrounding rapid social and ecological change. The role of local subsistence resources may change over time because of changes in social perception, economic need, and cultural patterns of use. We look at the Bering Sea’s Pribilof Islands, comprising two very small communities, and investigate the relationship between the local residents and seabirds as a natural resource. Seabirds may strengthen ties to older ways of life and have potential for future economic opportunities, or modernization may direct interest away from seabirds as a cultural and economic resource. We conducted a survey and interviews of residents of the two Pribilof Island communities, St. Paul and St. George, to assess opinions toward seabirds and harvest levels. Seabirds were generally regarded as important both to individuals and the wider community. However, current levels of subsistence harvest are low, and few people continue to actively harvest or visit seabird colonies. Respondents expressed desire for greater knowledge about seabirds and also concerns about the current economy of the islands and a lack of future development prospects. Despite the challenging economic conditions, the villages retain a strong sense of community and place value on their environment and on seabirds. Surveys indicated an interest in developing eco-tourism based around local resources, including seabirds, as a way to improve the economy.

Key words

Aleut; Pribilof Islands; seabird; subsistence; survey; tourism

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087