On July 7, 1911, United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Russia signed an agreement that limited the hunting of fur seals around the Pribilof Islands, off the coast of what is now Alaska. The treaty outlawed all hunting of fur seals in the ocean around the islands, and gave the U.S. the right to manage all on-shore hunting. The North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911 is usually recognized as the first international wildlife conservation treaty.

The Pribilof Islands are a major rookery, or breeding ground, for northern fur seals. In the 19th century, northern fur seals and other marine mammals, such as sea otters, had been hunted nearly to extinction for their thick fur coats. The population of northern fur seals was about 4.5 million in 1870. By the time of the treaty, there were only about 200,000 left. 

The 1911 treaty was truly groundbreaking. The parties not only agreed to limit future seal hunts, they also agreed to stop hunting entirely for five years to allow the population of northern fur seals to recover. The treaty also made an exception for indigenous people who hunted seals using traditional methods. 

Today, treaties such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 provide even greater protection to northern fur seals, and their population has rebounded in the Pribilof Islands.

Updated on : Jul 09, 2016   View : 151