Bering Sea

The Bering Sea (Russian: Бе́рингово мо́ре, tr. Béringovo móre) is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean.[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.

Bering Sea ESA376705.tiff

In the top-right corner of the image is Alaska's mainland blanketed with snow, as well as Nunivak Island. At the centre of the image are the islands of Saint Paul and Saint George – part of the Pribilof Islands. Also note the von Kármán vortex street (swirly clouds) in the middle right.


Satellite photo of the Bering Sea – Alaska is on the top right, Siberia on the top left

Bering Sea Location

Bering Sea in the North Pacific Ocean

Bering Sea
Map showing the location of the Bering Sea with latitude and longitude zones of the Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system
Coordinates58°0′N 178°0′W / 58.000°N 178.000°WCoordinates: 58°0′N 178°0′W / 58.000°N 178.000°W


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]


Beringian Margin canyons
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′N 163°21′W / 54.800°N 163.350°W) 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.

Choris, Saint Paul
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)
Snailfish, a non-commercial fish, caught in the eastern Bering Sea
Aerial view of Tutakoke Bird Camp, Coast of the Bering Sea just south of Hooper Bay, Alaska, near Chevak, Alaska
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.

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. 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.

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, Alaska pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, yellowfin sole, Pacific ocean perch and sablefish. Shellfish include red king crab and Chionoecetes.

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,[19] opilio and tanner crabs, Bristol Bay salmon, pollock and other groundfish.[20][21] 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. 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 uncertain.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25]

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


  1. ^ Fasham, M. J. R. (2003). Ocean biogeochemistry: the role of the ocean carbon cycle in global change. Springer. p. 79. ISBN 978-3-540-42398-0.
  2. ^ McColl, R.W. (2005). Encyclopedia of World Geography. Infobase Publishing. p. 697. ISBN 978-0-8160-5786-3. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  3. ^ "Area of Bering sea". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  4. ^ "Vitus Bering". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  5. ^ "North Pacific Overfishing (DONUT)". Trade Environment Database. American University. Archived from the original on 9 April 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  6. ^ Steinberger, Bernhard, and Carmen Gaina Geology 35 (5) 407-410, 2007 Plate-tectonic reconstructions predict part of the Hawaiian hotspot tract to be preserved in the Bering Sea
  7. ^ Rincon, Paul (18 March 2019). "US detects huge meteor explosion" – via
  8. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  9. ^ "Nunivak island in Bering sea". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  10. ^ "Alaska Islands of Bering Sea". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  11. ^ " - Bering Sea Wilderness - General Information". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  12. ^ Springer, A. M.; McRoy, C. P.; Flint, M. V. (1996). "The Bering Sea Green Belt: Shelf-edge processes and ecosystem production". Fisheries Oceanography. 5 (3–4): 205. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2419.1996.tb00118.x.
  13. ^ Schumacher, J. D.; Kinder, T. H.; Pashinski, D. J.; Charnell, R. L. (1979). "A Structural Front over the Continental Shelf of the Eastern Bering Sea". Journal of Physical Oceanography. 9 (1): 79. Bibcode:1979JPO.....9...79S. doi:10.1175/1520-0485(1979)009<0079:ASFOTC>2.0.CO;2.
  14. ^ a b Schell, D. M. (2000). "Declining carrying capacity in the Bering Sea: Isotopic evidence from whale baleen". Limnology and Oceanography. 45 (2): 459–462. Bibcode:2000LimOc..45..459S. doi:10.4319/lo.2000.45.2.0459.
  15. ^ Citta, John J.; Burns, John J.; Quakenbush, Lori T.; Vanek, Vicki; George, John C.; Small, Robert J.; Heide-Jørgensen, Mads Peter; Brower, Harry (12 June 2013). "Potential for bowhead whale entanglement in cod and crab pot gear in the Bering Sea". Marine Mammal Science. 30 (2): 445–459. doi:10.1111/mms.12047.
  16. ^ "Humpback Whales in Alaska". Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Hundreds of Tufted Puffin Deaths Suggest Dangers of Warming Seas". Audubon. 23 November 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Red-legged Kittiwake". Audubon. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  19. ^ Red King Crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Retrieved 2007-04-07.
  20. ^ Bering Climate.
  21. ^ "Groundfish Fisheries in the Eastern Bering Sea". Arctic Program. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  22. ^ Providing information on the present state of Arctic ecosystems and climate in historical context.
  23. ^ Alex DeMarban (19 February 2014). "In a warming world, Alaska's icy Bering Sea bucks the trend". Alaska Dispatch. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  24. ^ "Harbinger Down" – via
  25. ^ "Down to the Sea in Ships (1949) with Richard Widmark - Classic Film Freak". Classic Film Freak. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2018.

External links

170th meridian west

The meridian 170° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.

The 170th meridian west forms a great circle with the 10th meridian east.

Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska

Aleutians West Census Area is a census area located in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,561. It is part of the Unorganized Borough and therefore has no borough seat. Its largest city is Unalaska. It contains most of the Aleutian Islands, from Attu Island in the west to Unalaska Island in the east, as well as the Pribilof Islands, which lie north of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea.

Bering Island

Bering Island (Russian: о́стров Бе́ринга, ostrov Beringa) is located off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Bering Sea.

Bering Sea Arbitration

The Bering Sea Arbitration of 1893 arose out of a fishery dispute between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the United States in the 1880s. The United States Revenue Cutter Service, today known as the United States Coast Guard, captured several Canadian sealer vessels throughout the conflict. Diplomatic representations followed the capture of the first three ships and an order for release was issued by the British imperial government (then still in charge of foreign affairs for the Dominion of Canada), but it did nothing to stop the seizures and none were released. This led to the U.S. claiming exclusive jurisdiction over the sealing industry in the Bering Sea, and that led to negotiations outside of the courts. The award was given in favor of the British, however, and the Americans were denied exclusive jurisdiction. The British were awarded compensation for the damage that had been inflicted on their vessels, and the American sealing zone remained as it was prior to the conflict (60 miles).

Bering Sea Gold

Bering Sea Gold (also known as Gold Divers in the UK) is a reality television series set in Nome, Alaska, on Norton Sound, that airs on Discovery Channel. It is from the creators of the Deadliest Catch reality TV show. It achieved the 3rd highest ratings for a Friday cable telecast.The show is divided into the summer dredging season (aired in the spring), under the title Bering Sea Gold, and the spring dredging season (aired in the fall), under the title Bering Sea Gold: Under The Ice. For the first three seasons, this distinction held, in the 2015 4th season of the spring ice dredging season, the title card changed to "Bering Sea Gold", making the title identical to the original summer dredging season show. This continued with the 2016 5th seasons.

The show follows boats equipped with various setups to achieve gold mining in a summertime, cold northern latitude, shallow water, ocean environment. The fleet each typically consists of a sluicing apparatus, a means of paydirt collection (dredge), and a cold-water-diving life support system. Conflict issues include choppy seas, poor underwater visibility, inconsistent fuel delivery, personnel issues, mining location rights, sufficient paydirt discovery, diver safety, and ocean-damaging equipment failures. Each season of episodes follow the current fleet of dredges.

The "ice" series follows dredges housed in temporary shelters set up over ice holes. Several crew members have appeared in both the summer dredging and spring ice dredging seasons.

Bering Sea Wilderness

Bering Sea Wilderness is a wilderness area in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is 81,340 acres (32,920 ha) in area and was designated by the United States Congress in 1970. It encompasses St. Matthew Island, Hall Island, and Pinnacle Island and is part of the larger Bering Sea unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Bethel Census Area, Alaska

Bethel Census Area is a census area in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, the population is 17,013. It is part of the unorganized borough and therefore has no borough seat. Its largest community is the city of Bethel, which is also the largest city in the unorganized borough.

Dillingham Census Area, Alaska

Dillingham Census Area is a census area located in the state of Alaska, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 4,847. It is part of the unorganized borough and therefore has no borough seat. Its largest community by far is the city of Dillingham, on a small arm of Bristol Bay on the Bering Sea.

Gulf of Anadyr

The Gulf of Anadyr, or Anadyr Bay (Russian: Анадырский залив), is a large bay on the Bering Sea in far northeast Siberia.

Hall Island (Alaska)

Hall Island is a small island located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) to the northwest of St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea in Alaska, United States. It serves as a haulout site for Pacific walrus. It is 5 miles (8.0 km) in length and has a land area of 6.1758 square miles (15.995 km2). The highest point is 1,610 feet (490 m). Hall Island is uninhabited. It is part of the Bering Sea unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of three hall islands.

Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska

Kusilvak Census Area, formerly known as Wade Hampton Census Area, is a census area located in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,459. It is part of the Unorganized Borough and therefore has no borough seat. Its largest community is the city of Hooper Bay, on the Bering Sea coast.

The census area's per capita income makes it the fourth-poorest county-equivalent in the United States. In 2014, it had the highest percentage of unemployed people of any county or census area in the United States, at 23.7 percent.

Mesoplodont whale

Mesoplodont whales are 15 species of toothed whale in the genus Mesoplodon, making it the largest genus in the cetacean order. Two species were described as recently as 1991 (pygmy beaked whale) and 2002 (Perrin's beaked whale), and marine biologists predict the discovery of more species in the future. They are the most poorly known group of large mammals. The generic name "mesoplodon" comes from the Greek meso- (middle) - hopla (arms) - odon (teeth), and may be translated as 'armed with a tooth in the centre of the jaw'.

November 2011 Bering Sea cyclone

The November 2011 Bering Sea cyclone was one of the most powerful extratropical cyclones to affect Alaska on record. On November 8, the National Weather Service (NWS) began issuing severe weather warnings, saying that this was a near-record (or record) storm in the Bering Sea. It rapidly deepened from 973 mb (28.7 inHg) to 948 mb (28.0 inHg) in just 24 hours before bottoming out at 943 mbar (hPa; 27.85 inHg), roughly comparable to a Category 3 or 4 hurricane. The storm had been deemed life-threatening by many people. The storm had a forward speed of at least 60 mph (97 km/h) before it had reached Alaska. The storm began affecting Alaska in the late hours of November 8, 2011. The highest gust recorded was 93 mph (150 km/h) on Little Diomede Island. One person has been reported missing after being swept into the Bering Sea.

November 2014 Bering Sea cyclone

The November 2014 Bering Sea cyclone (also referred to as Post-Tropical Cyclone Nuri by the U.S. government) was the most intense extratropical cyclone (also a bomb cyclone) ever recorded in the Bering Sea, which formed from a new storm developing out of the low-level circulation that separated from Typhoon Nuri, which soon absorbed the latter. The cyclone brought gale-force winds to the western Aleutian Islands and produced even higher gusts in other locations, including a 97 miles per hour (156 km/h) gust in Shemya, Alaska. The storm coincidentally occurred three years after another historic extratropical cyclone impacted an area slightly further to the east.

Pribilof Islands

The Pribilof Islands (formerly the Northern Fur Seal Islands) are a group of four volcanic islands off the coast of mainland Alaska, in the Bering Sea, about two hundred miles (320 km) north of Unalaska and 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Cape Newenham. The Siberian coast is roughly 500 miles (800 km) northwest. About 77 square miles (200 km2) in total area, they are mostly rocky and are covered with tundra, with a population of 572 as of the 2010 census.

Seal Islands (Aleutians East)

The Seal Islands are a group of 12/+ islands in the Bering Sea, trending northeast 7 miles (11 km), close to the shores of Bristol Bay, Alaska, 33 miles (53 km) southwest of Port Heiden, Alaska Airfield; Bristol Bay Low.

St. Lawrence Island

St. Lawrence Island (Central Siberian Yupik: Sivuqaq, Russian: Остров Святого Лаврентия) is located west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea, just south of the Bering Strait. The village of Gambell, located on the northwest cape of the island, is 36 miles (58 kilometers) from the Chukchi Peninsula in the Russian Far East. The island is part of Alaska, but closer to Russia than to the Alaskan mainland. St. Lawrence Island is thought to be one of the last exposed portions of the land bridge that once joined Asia with North America during the Pleistocene period. It is the sixth largest island in the United States and the 113th largest island in the world. It is considered part of the Bering Sea Volcanic Province.

St. Matthew Island

St. Matthew Island is a remote island in the Bering Sea in Alaska, 295 km (183 mi) west-northwest of Nunivak Island. The island has a land area of 137.857 sq mi (357.05 km2), making it the 43rd largest island in the United States. Its most southerly point is Cape Upright which features cliff faces which exceed 1,000 feet (300 m). Similar heights are found at Glory of Russia Cape on the north, and the highest point, 1,476 feet (450 m) above sea level, lies south from the island center.

There is a small island off its northwestern point called Hall Island. The 3.1 miles (5.0 km) wide sound between both islands is called Sarichef Strait. A small rocky islet called Pinnacle Rock lies 9.3 miles (15.0 km) to the south of Saint Matthew Island. The entire island's natural scenery and wildlife is protected as it is part of the Bering Sea unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

The United States Coast Guard maintained a manned LORAN station on the island during the 1940s.

Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta

The Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta is a river delta located where the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers empty into the Bering Sea on the west coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. At approximately 129,500 square kilometers (50,000 sq mi) in size, it is one of the largest deltas in the world. It is larger than the Mississippi River Delta (which varies between 32,400 and 122,000 square kilometers (12,500 and 47,100 sq mi)), and comparable in size to the entire U.S. state of Louisiana (135,700 square kilometers (52,400 sq mi)). The delta, which consists mostly of tundra, is protected as part of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

The delta has approximately 25,000 residents. 85% of these are Alaska Natives: Yupik Eskimos and Athabaskan Indians. The main population center and service hub is the city of Bethel, with an estimated population of around 6,219 (as of 2011). Bethel is surrounded by 49 smaller villages, with the largest villages consisting of over 1,000 people. Most residents live a traditional subsistence lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and gathering. More than 30 percent have cash incomes well below the federal poverty threshold.

The area has virtually no roads; travel is by Bush plane, or by river boats in summer and snowmachines in winter.

Bethel is the location of the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center.

Islands in the Bering Sea
Arctic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Indian Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Southern Ocean
Endorheic basins

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.