On July 7, 1911, United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Russia signed an agreement that limited the hunt
ing of fur seals around the Pribilof Islands, off the coast
of what is now Alaska. The treaty outlaw
ed 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 recognize
d as the first international wildlife conservation
The Pribilof Islands are a major rookery
, or breeding ground, for northern fur seals. In the 19th century, northern fur seals and other marine mammal
s, 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 tradition
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.