U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



AFSC Processed Rep. 2009-03, 62 p. Alaska Fish. Sci. Cent., NOAA, Natl. Mar. Fish. Serv., 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115.


The northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) has been the subject of recorded history for more than two centuries (Scheffer et al. 1984, Scott et al. 2006). It has a long history of being commercially harvested for its valuable pelts (Roppel 1984). Recently, however, fur seals are being seen as one of many species reflecting the conditions of their environment, especially an environment increasingly altered by human influence. The Pribilof Islands fur seal population is currently listed as depleted under terms of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act owing to numbers greatly reduced from those observed historically (National Marine Fisheries Service 1993). As such, information that helps characterize, measure, and understand fur seal population change is valuable. This includes photographic records of fur seal rookeries showing their location, size, shape, and density of seals.

In 1895 (Townsend 1896a), ground-level photographs were taken from vantage points overlooking selected areas of most of the fur seal rookeries on the Pribilof Islands of the eastern Bering Sea. This was a remarkable feat in view of the state of photography at that time and the logistical difficulty of getting to and working on these islands. Since that time, scientists and managers have returned to the same spots from which these early photos were taken and photographed the same views. The addition of aerial photography further enhanced perspective by adding images that displayed entire rookeries. This report documents the digital archival of most of the photographs and images/illustrations of the fur seal rookeries on the Pribilof Islands maintained by the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, in Seattle, Washington. Our primary objective was to preserve these historic photographs in digital form to make them widely available and reproducible. Scientists, historians, and others now have the option of making use of these records to take advantage of the information they contain without posing risk to the original materials.