SEALING, WLIALING, FUR-HUNTING, AND FISH ERIES. The seals that visit the shores of especially from the Aleutian islands northward, are the main dependence of the natives for food, furnishing materials for boat-building, house making. dog-harness, etc., and are hunted perti naciously with guns, spears, nets, etc., and their skills are an article of intertribal trade. To white men they are of small importance. The walrus is almost the sole dependence of the Eskimos at and beyond Bering Strait, and is steadily diminishing, because it is also hunted by white men for the sake of its ivory. Fossil elephant ivory is also collected extensively by the Eskimos. The white whale and the great arctic whales are also of prime importance to the Arctic Alaskans, and these animals attract annually a considerable whaling fleet, which en deavors to leave the Arctic Ocean before the straits are obstructed by ice; vessels often fail to do so, however, and must pass the winter in the ice along the north shore of Alaska. In 1898 the catch of whales was 140.
The fur-seal was formerly abundant along both coasts of the strait and on most islands in Bering Sea ; now it is restricted to the Cop per Islands of the Siberian coast, and to the Pribylov group or Seal Islands, where it is theoretically protected by the government under the care of an American corporation whose rentals have yielded much more than the amount paid for the purchase of Alaska. The Congres sional regulations, however, have failed to put an end to pelagic sealing, in the suppression of which Great Britain will not join. In conse quence, the herds of seals resorting to the Priby loy Islands to breech, from which an annual quota of 30.000 (formerly 100,000) skins is permitted to be taken, have steadily diminished. The catch for 189S was 18,032. But 35 Cana dian vessels took in pelagic catch from Ameri can herds 28,132. This ruthless taking of the seals threatens their early extinction. This would mean the loss to Alaska of the most valuable item in the fur trade of the world. The fur
trade was, indeed, the first inducement for the early settlement of Alaska, and until recently her principal commercial resource. Wasteful ness, competition, and the degradation of the natives have greatly reduced the output; yet large numbers of skins of foxes, martens, er mines, beaver, and similar furs are still col lected: and on several of the Aleutian Islands blue foxes are being reared in semi-domesticity for the sake of their pelts, so that a regular in dustry in that direction is arising. The annual market value of the fur product of Alaska was estimated in ISSO by Petrov. United States Cen sus Agent, at $2,250,000.
The fisheries of Alaska were naturally unex celled by those of any part of the world. Cod, halibut, and other valuable deep-sea fishes inhabit the waters otr the coast in seemingly inexhaustible quantities, and a beginning has been made of a regular fishery by vessels from San Francisco. The anadromous fishes are nu merous and of the finest quality. Every stream, from the farthest. north to British Columbia, is crowded with some species of salmon (q.v.), herring, whitefish, smelt (see CANDLE-FISII ) , or other fish, ascending them to spawn. Without these hordes of river fish no Indian could long exist in the more northern portions of the terri tory, and the natives catch and preserve vast quantities for winter use. The salmon have long been the object of extensive civilized indus tries along the southern coast, and for years the output of salmon has exceeded 600,000 cases, and in 1898 reached almost 1,000,000 cases. In 1399 the canners employed 1298 white men, 830 natives, and 1859 Chinese. The industry is of little service to the territory, however, as nearly all the labor and the material used are extra neous, comparatively none of the wages earned is paid or spent in Alaska, and the fisheries are being conducted in a recklessly wasteful man ner.