Current Projects

Protecting Bering Sea Marine Resources

The Bering Sea is one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, supporting large numbers of marine mammals, sea birds, fish and shellfish. Over 70 Indigenous communities have relied on the Bering Sea for millennia and continue to do so to this day.

But, due to record-breaking temperatures caused by climate change that have led to reductions in sea ice and snow, Native communities are facing more hazardous and unpredictable conditions when hunting or fishing traditional foods. Other threats such as overfishing, habitat destruction, poaching, bottom-sea trawling, and pollution have also led to a decline in wildlife species.

Through this project, First Nations provides financial support and technical assistance to organizations in Bering Sea Native communities to address the depletion of marine resources needed to sustain their communities and people.

In 2022, First Nations awarded grants of $50,000 each to eligible organizations in Native communities that are working to protect marine resources in the Bering Sea ecoregion.

2022 Grantees

Alaska Nannut Co-Management Council

The Alaska Nannut Co-Management Council (ANCC) is an Alaska Native Organization representing tribes in Alaska that rely on polar bears for subsistence. ANCC’s purpose is to bring about successful co-management and conservation of polar bears to enable Indigenous communities to continue to rely on polar bears for subsistence into the future. Polar bears are both an important part of the Bering Sea marine ecosystem and an essential subsistence resource for Alaska Native communities in the Bering Sea region, including Gambell, Savoonga, King Island, Brevig Mission, Little Diomede, and Wales. First Nations support will be used to host a one-day board training for the organization to build its capacity to advance Indigenous-led polar bear management and stewardship and allow for ANCC to represent Alaska Native priorities, perspectives, and policy positions related to polar bear management, conservation, and research at various domestic and international meetings.

Aleut Community of St. Paul Island

The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island is one of the few federally recognized tribes that is active in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal fisheries management body for the Bering Sea. Funding through this project will help the tribe to continue to assert their tribal sovereignty through providing oral and written testimony comments; planning and hosting meeting with Indigenous and ally organizations, NOAA Alaska Region and federal employees (political appointees), State of Alaska delegation and representatives, fishing industry, environmental organizations, researchers, natural resource managers, and other relevant groups in the Bering Sea. The Tribe’s work is focused on highlighting the myriad of negative impacts of large scale industrial commercial trawlers on halibut and other critical marine food resources that their community depends on.

Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Consortium

The goal of the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Consortium (AYKTC) is to restore, maintain, and conserve the health and biodiversity of the Bering Sea ecosystems, including wild salmon returns for future generations. The organization is part of the Sustainable Salmon Initiative and is working with partners to improve federal-tribal cooperative management relationships. AYKTC will use First Nations’ support to develop a comprehensive communications plan, train community residents in federal decision-making processes, and expand community-based harvest monitoring. Staff will continue to participate in meetings and events involving coalition partners working to restore wild salmon in the region.

Atux̂ Forever : Restoring Attuans’ Freedom

Atux̂ Forever: Restoring Attuans’ Freedom is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to support Sasignan (Attuans) from Atux̂ (Attu), Alaska, a non-recognized Indigenous group, to gain back recognition and revive their cultural heritage. Through this project, the organization will create a policy document to help re-establish the tribe’s cultural affiliation in the area as part of the process of gaining recognition from the U.S. government. Through this process, broader coalition building, and advocacy campaigns, the organization hopes to reaffirm the tribe’s status as stewards of the land and sea of their homelands in the Bering Sea.

Bering Sea Elders Group

Bering Sea Elders Group is an association of elders appointed by 38 Tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim and Bering Strait Regions who have come together to protect their traditional ways of life and the ocean. As a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) Advisory Council, the organization advocates for Tribes in the region and for the protection of valuable fishery resources, like halibut, that the Indigenous people of the region depend on for subsistence. Their project goal is to strengthen organizational capacity that will contribute to policy research and provide continued participation in the NPFMC.

Kawerak, Inc.

Kawerak, Inc., is a regional non-profit that serves residents of the Bering Strait Region, particularly Alaskan Natives and their governing bodies. Funds will be used to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to participate and engage regularly in the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) to provide written and oral testimony so that their voices and knowledge now can be heard and incorporated into federal fisheries’ decision making and planning. This is essential for having true ecosystem-based fisheries management occur. Decisions made at the NPFMC can directly impact the ability of Indigenous peoples and tribes to access traditional resources, as well as the health and sustainability of the ecosystem they are a part of and rely on. Kawerak and its partners will hold at least two trainings for Bering Strait region tribal members to prepare them to participate in NPFMC meetings and will send tribal members to NPFMC meetings.

Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska

Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska is collecting nearshore oceanographic data, testing shellfish, and conducting phytoplankton tows to begin a foundation for a more comprehensive local understanding of harmful algal blooms (HABs), which have increased in frequency, severity, and duration due to rapid climate change and warming ocean temperatures. Although Unalaska residents have harvested and cooked shellfish in the past, the increasing risk of toxins has decreased the safety of this traditional practice, and many residents no longer harvest these traditional foods. A year-round assessment of HAB species in the water and toxins in subsistence foods will increase the tribe’s understanding of its marine ecosystem, changing climate regimes, and the associated ecological impacts on marine species that are important cultural and economic resources. This data will help the tribe protect the harvest traditions that have sustained its community for thousands of years.