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Partnering in search of answers: Seabird die-offs in the Bering and Chukchi Seas

December 9, 2022

Prior to 2015, seabird die-offs in Alaskan waters were rare; they typically occurred in mid-winter, linked to epizootic disease events or above-average ocean temperatures associated with strong El Nino-Southern Oscillation events (Bodenstein et al. 2015, Jones et al. 2019, Romano et al. 2020). Since 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has monitored mortality events that have become annual occurrences in Alaska (Fig. 1). Since 2017, communities on the coasts of the northern Bering and southern Chukchi Seas have annually observed dead and dying seabirds along their coasts, although such die-offs have not been reported from communities north of Point Hope. (Fig. 2). Affected species included planktivorous birds such as auklets (Aethia spp.) and shearwaters (Ardenna spp.), piscivorous murres (Uria spp.), puffins (Fratercula spp.), and kittiwakes (Rissa spp.), as well as low numbers of benthic feeding sea ducks (Somateria spp.). The range of seabird species and the different prey species involved, with localized events throughout summer and over widespread areas, indicate environmental causes at multiple trophic levels. Such wildlife mortality events are a public health concern for coastal communities that rely on ocean resources for their nutritional, cultural, and economic well-being. They have also been seen as a harbinger of concern for the state of the Arctic Ocean itself. 

Publication Year 2023
Title Partnering in search of answers: Seabird die-offs in the Bering and Chukchi Seas
DOI 10.25923/h002-4w87
Authors Robb A. S. Kaler, Gay Sheffield, S Backensto, Jackie Lindsey, T. Jones, J. Parrish, B Ahmasuk, Barbara Bodenstein, Robert J. Dusek, Caroline R. Van Hemert, Matthew M. Smith, P Schwalenberg
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title NOAA Technical Report
Index ID 70239216
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB; National Wildlife Health Center