The chain of Aleutian Islands is a westward extension of the Alaska Peninsula. Atka mackerel thrive in this area and nest nearshore. Pollock spawn here as well. Leatherback sea turtles are also sighted in the region.The endangered short-tailed albatross has also been sighted along the island chain. Steller’s sea lions reside on the islands and forage in coastal waters. This is an important migratory pass for cetaceans, especially gray, fin and humpback whales.
The chain of Aleutian Islands is a westward extension of the Alaska Peninsula. The passes between the islands in the Aleutian chain connect the Bering Sea to the Pacific Ocean and are crucial areas for species migration. A main branch of the coastal current along the Gulf of Alaska turns north through Unimak and Samalga passes into the Bering Sea. The Aleutian waters to the east of Samalga Pass have distinctively different physical and ecological features from those to the west of Samalga Pass, implying that the oceanographic mechanisms in this region of narrow passage have a significant effect on the assemblage of species in the vicinity (Ladd et al. in press).
The highly productive benthic and planktonic communities are critical to baleen whales and migratory birds. Gorgonian, hydro, soft and cup corals are distributed on the seafloor all along the island chain. Endemic to the northern Pacific Ocean, Atka mackerel thrive in this area and nest nearshore. Pollock spawn here as well. This priority area is home to Pacific Ocean perch (Sebastes alutus), rockfishes, halibut and Pacific cod.
Leatherback sea turtles are also sighted in the region. These myriad islands are where the majority of Alaska’s tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) build their nests. Kittiwakes (Rissa spp.), Storm petrels (Oceanodroma spp.), cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.) and murres (Uria spp.) are often seen hovering over the waters around the Aleutian Islands. The endangered Short-tailed albatross has also been sighted along the island chain. This area is an important migration corridor for shearwaters, alcids (puffins) and cormorants, and a major wintering area for auklets.
Some six hundred sea otters continue to roam the area’s kelp forests, but the population across the Aleutians is declining (Doroff et al. 2003). Steller’s sea lions reside on the islands and forage in coastal waters. They have approximately 20 identified haulouts and 10 rookeries in the PCA, around which fishing restrictions are implemented. This is an important migratory pass for cetaceans, especially gray, fin (Balaenoptera physalus) and humpback whales.
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, US FWS
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, US FWS
Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, US FWS
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, National Park Service
NOAA Fisheries-designated Steller’s sea lion critical habitats with fishing restrictions
Aleutian Islands Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO
Izembek Wetland of International Importance-Ramsar Convention
sea otter, killer whale, humpback whale, gray whale, northern right whale, blue whale
Abundant seamount and deep sea coral and sponge communities
Part of the world’s longest island archipelago
Transition zone between the polar seas of the Bering and Arctic and the temperate waters of the mid-latitude north Pacific Ocean
Adjacent deep trench runs for 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) at times reaching depths of 7,680 meters (25,194 feet) along the length of the island chain
Samalga Pass represents a divide in oceanographic features, resulting in different ecological features and species distributions on either side
Islands create unique salinity features
|PCA||Extratction of nonrenewable resources||Exploitation of renewable resources||Coastal land use change||Pollution at coast/at sea||Damagin recreational use||Physical alteration of coastline|
Unimak Pass/Aleutian Islands (United States)
MSCCCMSCCC Mammals: sea otter, killer whale, humpback whale, gray whale, northern right whale, blue whale
MSCCC Birds: short-tailed albatross
MSCCC Turtles: leatherback turtle