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Nature volume 42, page 171 | Download Citation



THE fisheries of Alaska are among the great questions of the day, and those of our legislators who wish to take part in the inevitable debate on the subject will do well to possess themselves of the present volume, and digest the large amount of information that it contains. As is well known, the fur-seal fisheries of the Northern Pacific, which supply the ladies' jackets so much prized in Europe, are rented by the Alaska Commercial Company, and produce a considerable revenue to the United States. It is therefore a standing grievance among our American friends, that, as shown by the testimony collected in the present Report, the number of seals on the Prybiloff Islands, whence the principal supply is derived, “has materially diminished during the last two or three years.” This is attributed to the fact that a large number of British vessels, “manned by expert Indian seal-hunters,” have frequented Bering's Sea, and destroyed “hundreds of thousands of fur-seals.” It is shown that, of the seals thus killed on the ocean, not more than one in seven is secured, because a wounded seal sinks so quickly. Thus, for every thousand seal-skins realized by the British sealing-vessels, some seven thousand seals are killed. Now, during the three years 1886–88, it appears that the number of what the Americans call “illicit skins” secured by the British traders was over 97,000, so that, if these calculations are correct, it follows that nearly three-quarters of a million of fur-seals were destroyed by British vessels during that period. American citizens, we are told, “have respected the law, and have made no attempt to take the seals.”

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