Bering Sea

Bering Sea

The Bering (or ImarpikFact|date=April 2008) Sea is a body of water in the Pacific Ocean that comprises a deep water basin (the Aleutian Basin) which 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 and Aleutian Islands. Covering over two million square kilometers ("775,000 sq mi"), it is bordered on the east and northeast by Alaska, on the west by Russia's Siberia and Kamchatka Peninsula, on the south by the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands and on the far north by the Bering Strait which separates the Bering Sea from the Arctic Ocean's Chukchi Sea. Bristol Bay is the portion of the Bering Sea which separates the Alaska Peninsula from mainland Alaska. The Bering Sea is named for the first European discoverer to sail its waters, the Danish navigator Vitus Bering.

The Bering Sea ecosystem includes resources within the jurisdiction of the United States and Russia, as well as international waters in the ‘Donut Hole’. The interaction between currents, sea ice, and weather make for a vigorous and productive ecosystem.


Most scientists believe that during the most recent ice age, sea level was low enough to allow humans and other animals to migrate on foot from Asia to North America across what is now the Bering Strait. This is commonly referred to as the "Bering land bridge" and is believed by some—though not all— 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 during the Triassic period.


Islands of the Bering Sea include:
*Pribilof Islands
*Komandorski Islands, including Bering Island
*St. Lawrence Island
*Diomede Islands
*King Island
*St. Matthew Island
*Karaginsky Island

Regions of the Bering Sea include
*Bering Strait
*Bristol Bay

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


The Bering Sea Shelf break is the dominant driver of primary productivity in the Bering Sea.Springer, A.M., C.P. McRoy, and M.V. Flint. 1996. The Bering Sea green belt: shelf-edge processes and ecosystem production. Fisheries Oceanography 5, 205-223.] This zone, where the shallower continental shelf drops off into the Aleutian 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.Schumacher, J.D., T. J. Kinder, D. J. Pashinski, and R. L. Charnell. 1979. A structural front over the continental shelf of the eastern Bering Sea. Journal Physical Oceanography 9: 79-87. ] 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. The productivity associated with sea ice is under threat as global warming causes a reduction of sea ice in the Bering Sea.

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.Schell, D. M. 2000. Declining carrying capacity in the Bering Sea: isotopic evidence from whale baleen. Limnol. Oceanogr. 45(2): 459-462. ] 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. The implication is that the carrying capacity of the Bering Sea is much lower now than it has been in the past.


The Bering Sea is home to some of the world's most interesting wildlife. This sea supports many endangered whale species including bowhead whale, blue whale, fin whale, sei whale, humpback whale, sperm whale, and the rarest whale in the world, the North Pacific Right Whale. Other marine mammals include walrus, Steller's sea lion, Northern Fur Seal, Beluga whales, Orcas (or Killer Whale), and polar bears.

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. Seabird species include tufted puffins, the endangered Short-tailed Albatross, Spectacled Eider, and Red-legged Kittiwakes. 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.

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 species of fish support large and valuable commercial fisheries. Commercial fish species include 6 species of Pacific salmon, walleye pollock, red king crab, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, yellowfin sole, Pacific ocean perch and sablefish.

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

Bering Sea fisheries

The Bering Sea is a world renowned treasure for its enormously productive and profitable fisheries, such as King Crab, [ [ Red King Crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus] Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Retrieved 2007-04-07.] opilio and tanner crabs, Bristol Bay salmon, pollock and other groundfish. 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.

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. 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.

The Bering Sea also serves as the central location of the Alaskan king crab and Opilio crab seasons, which are chronicled on the Discovery Channel television program "Deadliest Catch".

Links to Bering Sea data

The [ Bering Sea] supports some of the world's richest fisheries, and landings from Alaskan waters represents half the U.S. catch of fish and shellfish. Because of the [ changes going on in the Arctic] , future evolution of the Bering Sea climate/ecosystem is more uncertain. This is a symmetric problem: climate change impacts ecosystems, and ecosystems serve as indicators for climate change. Track the [ current State of the Bering Sea] with near-realtime ecological and climatic indicators. [ [ Bering climate] NOAA. Retrieved 2007-04-07.]

ee also

*Bering Sea Arbitration
*Bristol Bay
*Alaska Peninsula
*Timeline of environmental events
*Deadliest Catch


External links

* [ Bering Sea Climate and Ecosystem] Comprehensive web resource on the physical and biological factors affecting life in the Bering Sea, with maps, photos, essays on key Bering Sea issues, organizations, ecosystem information, and viewable data with narratives on trends and ecosystem relevance - from NOAA.
* [ North Pacific Ocean theme page]
* [ Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands area state-waters groundfish fisheries and groundfish harvest from parallel seasons in 2005 / by Barbi Failor-Rounds and Krista Milani.] Hosted by [ Alaska State Publications Program] .

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bering Sea — [ber′iŋ, bir′iŋ] [after BERING Vitus] part of the N Pacific Ocean, between NE Siberia & Alaska: c. 873,000 sq mi (2,261,061 sq km) …   English World dictionary

  • Bering Sea — a part of the N Pacific, N of the Aleutian Islands. 878,000 sq. mi. (2,274,000 sq. km). * * * Body of water, northern Pacific Ocean. Enclosed by Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and eastern Siberia, it covers 885,000 sq mi… …   Universalium

  • Bering Sea — noun the sea between Siberia and Alaska that is connected to the Arctic Ocean by the Bering Strait. Syn: Imarpik Sea …   Wiktionary

  • Bering Sea — noun part of the North Pacific between Alaska and Siberia; connected to the Arctic Ocean by the Bering Strait • Instance Hypernyms: ↑sea • Part Holonyms: ↑Pacific, ↑Pacific Ocean …   Useful english dictionary

  • Bering Sea — Beringmeer Das Beringmeer (oder die Beringsee) ist ein Randmeer am nördlichen Ende des Pazifischen Ozeans zwischen Nordamerika und dem Nordosten Asiens (Sibirien). Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Geografie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bering Sea — geographical name arm of the N Pacific between Alaska & NE Siberia & between the Aleutians & Bering Strait area 885,000 square miles (2,292,150 square kilometers) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Bering Sea — part of the North Pacific betw. Alaska and Russia, joined to the Arctic by Bering Strait …   Webster's Gazetteer

  • Bering Sea — Ber′ing Sea′ n. geg a part of the N Pacific N of the Aleutian Islands. 878,000 sq. mi. (2,274,000 sq. km) …   From formal English to slang

  • Bering Sea — far northern section of the Pacific Ocean (between Alaska and Siberia) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Bering Sea — /bɜrɪŋ ˈsi/ (say berring see), /bɛə / (say bair ) noun a part of the northern Pacific north of the Aleutian Islands. About 2 274 020 km2 …   Australian-English dictionary

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