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On July 7, 1911, United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Russia signed an agreement that limited the hunting of fur seals around the Pribilof Islands, off the coast of what is now Alaska. The treaty outlawed all hunting of fur seals in the ocean around the islands, and gave the U.S. the right to manage all on-shore hunting. The North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911 is usually recognized as the first international wildlife conservation treaty.
 
The Pribilof Islands are a major rookery, or breeding ground, for northern fur seals. In the 19th century, northern fur seals and other marine mammals, such as sea otters, had been hunted nearly to extinction for their thick fur coats. The population of northern fur seals was about 4.5 million in 1870. By the time of the treaty, there were only about 200,000 left. 
 
The 1911 treaty was truly groundbreaking. The parties not only agreed to limit future seal hunts, they also agreed to stop hunting entirely for five years to allow the population of northern fur seals to recover. The treaty also made an exception for indigenous people who hunted seals using traditional methods. 
 
Today, treaties such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 provide even greater protection to northern fur seals, and their population has rebounded in the Pribilof Islands.
breeding ground
Noun

place where animals mate, give birth, and sometimes raise young.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

Noun

management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

exception
Noun

unusual occurrence that doesn't follow the general procedures or associations.

Noun

process of complete disappearance of a species from Earth.

fur
Noun

thick hair covering the skin of an animal.

groundbreaking
Adjective

innovative or pioneering.

hunt
Verb

to pursue and kill an animal, usually for food.

indigenous people
Noun

ethnic group that has lived in the same region for all of their known history.

international
Adjective

having to do with more than one country.

manage
Verb

to control or organize a situation or activity.

marine mammal
Noun

an animal that lives most of its life in the ocean but breathes air and gives birth to live young, such as whales and seals.

outlaw
Verb

to make illegal or against the law.

protect
Verb

to take action to prevent injury or attack.

recognize
Verb

to identify or acknowledge.

rookery
Noun

breeding site for birds or other animals.

tradition
Noun

beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.

treaty
Noun

official agreement between groups of people.

wildlife
Noun

organisms living in a natural environment.

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