30 April 2005

Public Summary of the Second Annual Working Meeting

Forum sends statement to US and Russian Lawmakers asking for an International Agreement on Bering Sea Management. Read the Statement. Read statement in Russian.

29 July 2003

Press Advisory: Russian and U.S. Leaders Unite to Avert Collapse of Bering Sea Ecosystem

Marine experts from the U.S. and Russia are coming together to tackle the tough issues they say have been neglected by government agencies

(read complete press advisory)

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Press Advisory: Russian and U.S. Leaders Unite to Avert
Collapse of Bering Sea Ecosystem

July 29, 2003

For more information
Catriona Glazebrook, Executive Director and Forum Member, Tel: 510/251-8800 x301; [email protected]
Rory Cox, Communications Coordinator, Tel: 510/251-8800 x302; [email protected]

Telephone Press Conference: Tuesday, August 5, at 10 AM Pacific Time
The conference will feature Forum spokespeople Catriona Glazebrook, Larry Merculieff, Walter Parker, and Xanthippe Augerot. To reserve a space on the call, please contact Rory Cox (above).

Oakland, CA – Citing an impending environmental crisis in the Bering Sea from overfishing, climate change, and lack of international cooperation, marine experts from the U.S. and Russia are coming together to tackle the tough issues they say have been neglected by government agencies. Ushering in a new era of international cooperation to protect one of the world’s most important marine ecosystems, these leaders will announce the initiation of the International Bering Sea Forum on August 5, 2003.

The first of its kind, the International Bering Sea Forum is made up of over 30 international citizens representing indigenous peoples, family fishermen, scientists, government officials and environmentalists from both countries. Members of the Forum will work together to pro-actively advocate for sustainable management of the Bering Sea area and foster greater international cooperation. The Forum is a civil society initiative to address the lack of serious international conservation measures.

“The political boundaries of the Bering are irrelevant to the fish, birds, mammals, and other creatures that call the Bering home,” said Catriona Glazebrook, Forum member and Director of Pacific Environment, a U.S.-based non-profit organization, “Yet the Bering ecosystem is being managed by two countries who don’t always see beyond their own national interests or their national borders.”

The Forum will use both scientific data as well as traditional native knowledge to base its determinations. The Forum will take stands and issue resolutions in order to urge their respective governments to manage the Bering more holistically, more cooperatively, and with future generations in mind.

According to Forum member Larry Merculieff, who is the coordinator for the Bering Sea Council of Elders, “Real Native involvement in management of the Bering has been marginal at best on both sides of the Bering. With this Forum, we will bring the knowledge and wisdom of native peoples into the dialogue. We have generations of first-hand knowledge of the Bering, and we are the first ones to feel it when things go wrong.”

One of the first initiatives the Forum is launching will be an independent indigenous network powered by indigenous leaders from Russia and the US. Requests for proposals for ideas for shaping this international network will be sought in the Fall of 2003. Pacific Environment will be offering $10,000 to support this initial effort.

Issues in the Bering
A geo-political and biological hot spot between Alaska and Russia, the Bering Sea is one of the world’s most important marine ecosystems. Besides being a source of over half of the U.S. fish supply, the North Pacific-Bering Sea region has unusually high amounts of marine life. In spite of the extreme importance of this region biologically and as the “fish basket” for the United States, overfishing, along with increasing pollution and changing weather and current patterns, has some worried that the Bering may be collapsing.

Among the present victims are marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, porpoises, and Steller’s sea lions, as well as other sea animals such as sea turtles and sea birds. Scientists note that the increasing takeover of jellyfish in parts of the Bering indicates a crashing ecosystem.

History of International Management of the Bering
Mutual recognition of the need to cooperatively address these problems was first proposed in 1988 during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting in Moscow. Two years later, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev issued a joint statement calling for urgent conservation measures to be taken. And in 1993, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, announced their intention to improve environmental protection. These efforts created the "Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea", which was signed in 1994 by China, South Korea, Russia, the U.S., Japan and Poland.

While the Convention has made some important first steps in international management of the “Donut Hole,” an area of the Bering that is in international waters, it has fallen short of providing the needed emphasis on international cooperation and local participation. It has been shadowed by marine boundary disputes between countries, illegal fishing, and, on the US side, a management regime that is highly influenced by major US fishing industry interests.

For a press packet, or to reserve a place on the August 5 telephone press conference, please contact Rory Cox at 510/251-8800 x302, or [email protected].