Bering Sea

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Bering Sea
Map showing the location of the Bering Sea with latitude and longitude zones of the Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system
Coordinates 58°0′N178°0′W / 58.000°N 178.000°W / 58.000; -178.000 Coordinates: 58°0′N178°0′W / 58.000°N 178.000°W / 58.000; -178.000

The Bering Sea (Russian :Бе́рингово мо́ре, tr. Béringovo móre) is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It forms, along with the Bering Strait, the divide between the two largest landmasses on Earth: Eurasia and The Americas. [1] [2] It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves.


The Bering Sea is separated from the Gulf of Alaska by the Alaska Peninsula. It covers over 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi) and is bordered on the east and northeast by Alaska, on the west by Russian Far East and the Kamchatka Peninsula, on the south by the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands and on the far north by the Bering Strait, which connects the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean's Chukchi Sea. [3] Bristol Bay is the portion of the Bering Sea which separates the Alaska Peninsula from mainland Alaska. The Bering Sea is named for Vitus Bering, a Danish navigator in Russian service, who in 1728 was the first European to systematically explore it, sailing from the Pacific Ocean northward to the Arctic Ocean. [4]

The Bering Sea ecosystem includes resources within the jurisdiction of the United States and Russia, as well as international waters in the middle of the sea (known as the "Donut Hole" [5] ). The interaction between currents, sea ice, and weather makes for a vigorous and productive ecosystem.


Most scientists believe that during the most recent ice age, sea level was low enough to allow humans to migrate east on foot from Asia to North America across what is now the Bering Strait. Other animals including megafauna migrated in both directions. This is commonly referred to as the "Bering land bridge" and is believed by most, though not all scientists, to be the first point of entry of humans into the Americas.

There is a small portion of the Kula Plate in the Bering Sea. The Kula Plate is an ancient tectonic plate that used to subduct under Alaska. [6]

On 18 December 2018, a large meteor exploded above the Bering Sea. The space rock exploded with 10 times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. [7]


Bering Sea showing the larger of the submarine canyons that cut the margin Beringian Margin canyons.png
Bering Sea showing the larger of the submarine canyons that cut the margin


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Bering Sea as follows: [8]

On the North. The Southern limit of the Chuckchi Sea [ sic ] [The Arctic Circle between Siberia and Alaska ].
On the South. A line running from Kabuch Point ( 54°48′N163°21′W / 54.800°N 163.350°W / 54.800; -163.350 ) in the Alaskan Peninsula, through the Aleutian Islands to the South extremes of the Komandorski Islands and on to Cape Kamchatka in such a way that all the narrow waters between Alaska and Kamchatka are included in the Bering Sea.


Islands of the Bering Sea include:


Regions of the Bering Sea include:

The Bering Sea contains 16 submarine canyons including the largest submarine canyon in the world, Zhemchug Canyon.

The Russian "Rurik" sets anchor near Saint Paul Island in the Bering sea in order to load food and equipment for the expedition to the Chukchi sea in the north. Drawing by Louis Choris in 1817. Choris, Saint Paul.jpg
The Russian "Rurik" sets anchor near Saint Paul Island in the Bering sea in order to load food and equipment for the expedition to the Chukchi sea in the north. Drawing by Louis Choris in 1817.
Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), hauled out on Bering Sea ice, Alaska, June 1978. (Source: NOAA) Noaa-walrus17.jpg
Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), hauled out on Bering Sea ice, Alaska, June 1978. (Source: NOAA)
Snailfish, a non-commercial fish, caught in the eastern Bering Sea Snailfish.jpg
Snailfish, a non-commercial fish, caught in the eastern Bering Sea
Red king crab Kingcrabpile.jpg
Red king crab
Aerial view of Tutakoke Bird Camp on the coast of the Bering Sea, south of Hooper Bay Aerial view of Tutakoke Bird Camp, Coast of the Bering Sea just south of Hooper Bay, Alaska, near Chevak, Alaska.jpg
Aerial view of Tutakoke Bird Camp on the coast of the Bering Sea, south of Hooper Bay


The Bering Sea shelf break is the dominant driver of primary productivity in the Bering Sea. [12] This zone, where the shallower continental shelf drops off into the North Aleutians Basin is also known as the "Greenbelt". Nutrient upwelling from the cold waters of the Aleutian basin flowing up the slope and mixing with shallower waters of the shelf provide for constant production of phytoplankton.

The second driver of productivity in the Bering Sea is seasonal sea ice that, in part, triggers the spring phytoplankton bloom. Seasonal melting of sea ice causes an influx of lower salinity water into the middle and other shelf areas, causing stratification and hydrographic effects which influence productivity. [13] In addition to the hydrographic and productivity influence of melting sea ice, the ice itself also provides an attachment substrate for the growth of algae as well as interstitial ice algae.[ citation needed ]

Some evidence suggests that great changes to the Bering Sea ecosystem have already occurred. Warm water conditions in the summer of 1997 resulted in a massive bloom of low energy coccolithophorid phytoplankton (Stockwell et al. 2001). A long record of carbon isotopes, which is reflective of primary production trends of the Bering Sea, exists from historical samples of bowhead whale baleen. [14] Trends in carbon isotope ratios in whale baleen samples suggest that a 30–40% decline in average seasonal primary productivity has occurred over the last 50 years. [14] The implication is that the carrying capacity of the Bering Sea is much lower now than it has been in the past.


The sea supports many whale species including the beluga, humpback whale, bowhead whale, gray whale and blue whale, the vulnerable sperm whale, and the endangered fin whale, sei whale and the rarest in the world, the North Pacific right whale. Other marine mammals include walrus, Steller sea lion, northern fur seal, orca and polar bear. [15] [16]

The Bering Sea is very important to the seabirds of the world. Over 30 species of seabirds and approximately 20 million individuals breed in the Bering Sea region.[ citation needed ] Seabird species include tufted puffins, the endangered short-tailed albatross, spectacled eider, and red-legged kittiwakes. [17] [18] Many of these species are unique to the area, which provides highly productive foraging habitat, particularly along the shelf edge and in other nutrient-rich upwelling regions, such as the Pribilof, Zhemchug, and Pervenets canyons. The Bering Sea is also home to colonies of crested auklets, with upwards of a million individuals.[ citation needed ]

Two Bering Sea species, the Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) and spectacled cormorant (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus), are extinct because of overexploitation by man. In addition, a small subspecies of Canada goose, the Bering Canada goose (Branta canadensis asiatica) is extinct due to overhunting and introduction of rats to their breeding islands.

The Bering Sea supports many species of fish, some of which support large and valuable commercial fisheries. Commercial fish species include Pacific cod, several species of flatfish, sablefish, Pacific salmon, and Pacific herring. Shellfish include red king crab and snow crab. [19]

Fish biodiversity is high, and at least 419 species of fish have been reported from the Bering Sea.


The Bering Sea is world-renowned for its productive and profitable fisheries, such as king crab, [20] opilio and tanner crabs, Bristol Bay salmon, pollock and other groundfish. [21] [22] These fisheries rely on the productivity of the Bering Sea via a complicated and little understood food web. The continued existence of these fisheries requires an intact, healthy, and productive ecosystem.[ citation needed ]

Commercial fishing is big business in the Bering Sea, which is relied upon by the largest seafood companies in the world to produce fish and shellfish. [23] On the U.S. side, commercial fisheries catch approximately $1 billion worth of seafood annually, while Russian Bering Sea fisheries are worth approximately $600 million annually.[ citation needed ]

The Bering Sea also serves as the central location of the Alaskan king crab and snow crab seasons, which are chronicled on the Discovery Channel television program Deadliest Catch . Landings from Alaskan waters represents half the U.S. catch of fish and shellfish.[ citation needed ]


Because of the changes going on in the Arctic, future evolution of the Bering Sea climate/ecosystem is uncertain. [24] Between 1979 and 2012 the region experienced small growth in sea ice extent, standing in contrast to the substantial loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean to the north. [25]

In media

The film Harbinger Down , which was released on August 7, 2015, was about a group of grad students have booked passage on the crabbing boat Harbinger to study the effects of global warming on a pod of beluga whales in the Bering Sea. [26]

One of the central characters in the 1949 film Down to the Sea in Ships has the given name "Bering" due to having been born in a ship crossing the Bering Sea. [27]

The 2002 supernatural thriller, Ghost Ship , directed by Steve Beck, follows a marine salvage crew in the Bering Sea who discover the lost Italian ocean liner, Antonia Graza that disappeared in 1962.

See also

Related Research Articles

North Pacific right whale species of mammal

The North Pacific right whale is a very large, thickset baleen whale species that is extremely rare and endangered.

Chukchi Sea marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean north of the Bering Strait

Chukchi Sea, sometimes referred to as the Chuuk Sea, Chukotsk Sea or the Sea of Chukotsk, is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the Long Strait, off Wrangel Island, and in the east by Point Barrow, Alaska, beyond which lies the Beaufort Sea. The Bering Strait forms its southernmost limit and connects it to the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The principal port on the Chukchi Sea is Uelen in Russia. The International Date Line crosses the Chukchi Sea from northwest to southeast. It is displaced eastwards to avoid Wrangel Island as well as the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug on the Russian mainland.

Gulf of Alaska arm of the Pacific Ocean

The Gulf of Alaska is an arm of the Pacific Ocean defined by the curve of the southern coast of Alaska, stretching from the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island in the west to the Alexander Archipelago in the east, where Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage are found.

Aboriginal whaling

Indigenous whaling is the hunting of whales by indigenous peoples. It is permitted under international regulation, but in some countries remains a contentious issue. It is usually considered part of the subsistence economy. In some places whaling has been superseded by whale watching instead. This article deals with communities that continue to hunt; details about communities that have ended the practice may be found at History of whaling.

Pacific ocean perch species of fish in the rockfish family

The Pacific ocean perch, also known as the Pacific rockfish, Rose fish, Red bream or Red perch has a wide distribution in the North Pacific from southern California around the Pacific rim to northern Honshū, Japan, including the Bering Sea. The species appears to be most abundant in northern British Columbia, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands.

Large marine ecosystem Regions of the worlds oceans characterized by distinct bathymetry, hydrography, productivity, and trophically dependent populations

Large marine ecosystems (LMEs) are regions of the world's oceans, encompassing coastal areas from river basins and estuaries to the seaward boundaries of continental shelves and the outer margins of the major ocean current systems. They are relatively large regions on the order of 200,000 km² or greater, characterized by distinct bathymetry, hydrography, productivity, and trophically dependent populations. Productivity in LME protected areas is generally higher than in the open ocean.

The wildlife of Alaska is diverse and abundant.

Alaska plaice species of fish

Alaska plaice is a saltwater fish that live in the North Pacific Ocean. Alaska plaice are right-eye flounders which live on the sandy bottoms of the continental shelf, up to 600 metres deep. Their geographic range is from the Gulf of Alaska in the east, to the Chukchi Sea in the north, to the Sea of Japan in the west. Alaska plaice feed mostly on polychaetes, but also eat amphipods and echiurans.

The Chukchi Sea Shelf or Chukchi Shelf is the westernmost part of the continental shelf of the United States and the easternmost part of the continental shelf of Russia. Within this shelf, the 50-mile Chukchi Corridor acts as a passageway for one of the largest marine mammal migrations in the world.

Bowhead whale Species of mammal

The bowhead whale is a species of baleen whale belonging to the family Balaenidae and the only living representative of the genus Balaena. The bowhead is the only baleen whale endemic to the Arctic and sub-arctic waters. The species is named after its characteristic massive triangular skull, which is used to break through Arctic ice. Other common names of the species are the Greenland right whale or Arctic whale. American whalemen called them the steeple-top, polar whale, or Russia or Russian whale.

Fishing industry in the United States

As with other countries, the 200 nautical miles (370 km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coast of the United States gives its fishing industry special fishing rights. It covers 11.4 million square kilometres, which is the largest zone in the world, exceeding the land area of the United States.

<i>Paralithodes platypus</i> species of crustacean

Paralithodes platypus, the blue king crab, is a species of North Pacific king crab which lives near St. Matthew Island, the Pribilof Islands, and the Diomede Islands, Alaska, with further populations along the coasts of Japan and Russia. Although blue king crabs are among the largest crabs in the world and reputedly may exceed 18 pounds (8.2 kg) in weight, they are generally smaller than red king crabs.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) is one of eight regional councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976 to manage the fisheries of the United States. With jurisdiction over the 900,000-square-mile (2,300,000 km2) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Alaska, the Council has primary responsibility for groundfish management in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, including cod, pollock, flatfish, mackerel, sablefish, and rockfish species. Other large Alaska fisheries such as salmon, crab and herring are managed primarily by the State of Alaska.

Hanna Shoal

Hanna Shoal is a shallow, natural shoal located off the coast of northwest Alaska in the Chukchi Sea. The region around Hanna Shoal is one of the Chukchi Sea’s most biologically productive areas.

Barrow Canyon

Barrow Canyon is a submarine canyon that straddles the boundary between the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Compared to other nearby areas and the Canada Basin, the highly productive Barrow Canyon supports a diversity of marine animals and invertebrates.

Herald Shoal is a region of high benthic productivity on the Chukchi Sea shelf. It serves as rich foraging habitat for many species of marine mammals and birds.

NOAAS <i>Oregon</i> (R 551)

NOAAS Oregon, previously NOAAS Oregon, was an American fisheries research vessel in commission in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fleet from 1970 to 1980. Prior to her NOAA career, she operated under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service from 1949 to 1970 as US FWS Oregon.

MV <i>Pribilof</i>

MV Pribilof was an American refrigerated cargo ship in commission in the fleet of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from 1964 to 1970 and in the fleet of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration′s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) from 1970 to 1975. She ran a cargo service between Seattle, Washington, and the Pribilof Islands – the last of the United States Government "Pribilof tenders" to carry out this function – and also made USFWS and NMFS research cruises in the Pribilofs.

MV <i>Eider</i>

MV Eider was an American motor schooner in commission in the fleet of the United States Bureau of Fisheries from 1919 to 1940 and in the fleet of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1940 to 1942 and again in the late 1940s. She ran a passenger-cargo service between Unalaska and the Pribilof Islands, and also carried passengers, supplies, and provisions to destinations on the mainland of the Territory of Alaska and in the Aleutian Islands. She occasionally supported research activities in Alaskan waters and the North Pacific Ocean, and she conducted patrols to protect Alaskan fisheries and marine mammals. In 1924, she provided logistical support to the first aerial circumnavigation of the world.

MV <i>Brown Bear</i>

MV Brown Bear was an American research vessel in commission in the fleet of the United States Bureau of Biological Survey and Alaska Game Commission from 1934 to 1940, the fleet of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service from 1940 to 1942 and again from 1965 to 1970, under the control of the University of Washington from 1952 to 1965, and in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration′s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) from 1970 to 1972.


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