2018 Seabird Die-Off

Beginning in May 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Park Service (NPS) began receiving reports of dead and dying seabirds from the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas, including in the vicinity of the Western Arctic National Parklands.

In late June, NPS investigators found 100 carcasses over a total of 4 km of beach surveyed, most of these being murres along the coast of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, although other species were found there and in Cape Krusenstern National Monument.

Coastal communities have counted hundreds of dead seabirds that include: murres, fulmars, shearwaters, kittiwakes, auklets, and puffins. Additionally, fork-tailed storm petrels have been observed in large numbers along the coasts of Katmai and Kenai Fjords national parks (including Resurrection Bay), and in Prince William Sound. It is unusual to see this species so close to shore. While carcasses were not observed in these locations, there have been carcasses recorded in Kamishak Bay in lower Cook Inlet and McNeil River Sanctuary.

A map of Alaska's oceans and key to locations and number of dead seabirds found.
This map shows the location and magnitude of the dead seabirds found during this year's die-off event.

The USFWS and NPS are coordinating efforts with local communities. To date, all bird carcasses sent to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center for examination were determined to have died of starvation. There has been no evidence of disease, and tests are pending to determine if birds were exposed to harmful algal toxins.

Since spring, seabird die-offs have been recorded in the Pribilof Islands and the northern Gulf of Alaska. Although die-offs have occurred before, this is unusual due to the number of birds affected, the broad geographic area, and the duration of the event, which is ongoing.

A graphic showing egg success by location and species for 2018.
The 2018 Alaska Seabird Report Card.

Provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The National Park Service works with many partners to document and understand seabird die-offs. Among our partners are: the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management Program and the Alaska Maritime Refuge; the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and National Wildlife Health Center; the coastal communities of Nome, Unalakleet, Stebbins, Golovin, Kotzebue, and Shshmaref; Native villages of Gambell and Savoonga; Kawerak and Maniilaq Native Corporations; and Alaska Sea Grant provided transboundary reports from Chukotka, Russia.

Last updated: February 3, 2021