October 01, 2017

Resource Wars: A Conflict of Interests in the Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area

Achinthi Vithanage

The Bering Sea region is the locus of one of the world’s largest marine mammal migrations, known as “katawhsaqa” or “pouring out” in the native Yup’ik language, with numerous animal species traveling through the Bering Strait annually for feeding and breeding in the Arctic. Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, Oceana, usa.oceana.org/northern-bering-sea-climate-resilience-area. The many species that pass through this natural chokepoint between the Arctic and Pacific Oceans include ice seals; beluga, gray, and bowhead whales; Pacific walruses; polar bears; migratory seabirds; seafloor-dwelling invertebrates; and a plethora of fish species. Eleanor Huffines, 7 Things to Know about the Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, The Pew Charitable Trusts (Dec. 9, 2016), available at www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/analysis/2016/12/09/7-things-to-know-about-the-northern-bering-sea-climate-resilience-area. This natural phenomenon is critical to the culture and food security of the Yup’ik, Cup’ik, St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik, and Inupiaq peoples, who have resided in the region relying on its resources for thousands of years. The health, well-being, subsistence economic system, and traditional way of life of these indigenous communities are interwoven with their access to the marine environment. See generally Thomas R. Berger, Village Journey: The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission (New York: Hill and Wang 1985).

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