Bering Sea Coalition

by Larry Merculieff

Three years ago, a teleconference was held with individuals representing some ninety communities to discuss the continuing declines of fish, marine mammals and birds in the Bering Sea. The group unanimously decided that a coalition of coastal communities in the Bering Sea focusing on Bering Sea ecosystem health issues would be timely and appropriate. They directed that steps be taken to formally organize a Bering Sea Coalition. The purpose of the Coalition is to create a stronger voice for the coastal communities in the decisions involving the ecosystem, since it directly affects our way of life, our cultures and our economies - perhaps more so than any other Bering Sea “stakeholder.”

The primary reason everyone decided we needed a coalition, is that there is no single organization today geared to address ecosystem health issue in a way which represents the desires of the people in all the areas of the Bering Sea. Most groups are geared to dealing with regional issues, but the Bering Sea encompasses at least four regions - the Bering Straits area, the Lower Yukon-Kuskokwim, Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula-Aleutians. In addition, the Bering Sea includes communities on the Russian side and involves the Koryuks, Siberian Yup’iks, Ittlemans, Kamchadals, and Aleuts.

The two things every group has in common is that they are resident in the Bering Sea and they have a great deal at stake in the widespread declines of fish and wildlife there. Despite this, the coastal communities have little or no voice in the decisions involving research, management, policy-making, and the fish and wildlife restoration initiative now in the works. Unless coastal communities act together, this will not change. It is with this in mind that the Bering Sea Coalition was established: to create a forum for communities throughout the Bering Sea to decide what role they wish to have in dealing with Bering Sea ecosystem issues, and to seek the means and ability to accomplish what the communities want.

For more information about the Bering Sea Coalition, Larry Merculieff can be reached at (907) 688-2226, or by e-mail at