US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

About Marine Protected Areas

  >  About MPAs  > MPA Stories  > Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The sheer span on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is difficult to grasp.  It ranges across most of the 47,300 miles of Alaska's coastline and includes 2,500 islands, islets, spires, rocks, reefs, waters and headlands. 

No other maritime National Wildlife Refuge in the United States is as large or as productive.  This extensive refuge provides nesting habitat for approximately 40 million seabirds, which is almost 80% of Alaska's nesting seabird population.

This refuge happens to also be one of the most remote units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, making management a challenge.  Most of the activities conducted here involve long-term ecosystem monitoring, marine resource research and invasive species management.

These activities are very important, especially invasive species management.  Introduced foxes and shipwrecked rats have had catastrophic impacts on seabird populations, intertidal diversity, and archeological remains.  Foxes alone have been removed from more than one million acres, on over 40 different islands to date.  The successful delisting of the endemic Aleutian Canada Goose as an endangered species in 2000 is due to this effort. 

Rats are a different story, as they post a greater threat to island ecosystems than an oil spill can.  Without action to prevent them, rats remain forever.  When ships wreck on a remote refuge island, a "rat spill" response team is assembled to prevent a rat introduction. No act undertaken is too big or too small to save even one of the 40 million birds in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Did you know?

  • In the 1960s and 70s three underground nuclear bombs were tested on the refuge island of Amchitka.  Cannikan, in 1971, was the largest underground nuclear blast in U.S. history. The ecological consequences of these blasts are still being investigated.

  • If superimposed on the lower 48 States, lands in the Alaska Maritime Refuge would stretch from Georgia to California to Minnesota.

  • The Alaska Maritime Refuge technically spans 4 time zones (Pacific, Yukon, Alaska, and Bering).

Learn more/get involved:

  • Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the natural resources of all the National Wildlife Refuges within Alaska. Visit the Friends website to see all the ways you can support refuges.