While we have added new species to the Audubon’s 2017 Alaska WatchList, we are pleased to say some species have increased. One of them is the Emperor Goose.
A beautiful and unique goose, it spends its whole life in the Russian Far East and Alaska, moving from breeding grounds on both sides of the Bering Sea to coastal wintering areas along the Aleutians and the Alaska Peninsula like Izembek Lagoon and Kodiak Island. Based on significant declines of the population in the early 1980s, no fall/winter hunting has been allowed since 1986. Additionally, in 1987, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Goose Management Plan reached an agreement that stopped the subsistence harvest of the Emperor Goose until a three-year average count of 80,000 birds was reached during the annual spring survey.
Since the hunting closure, the Emperor Goose population has rebounded, and in 2015, the three-year spring survey index hit 81,875 geese. While details are still being worked out, in the spring of 2017, a limited subsistence hunt resumed for rural residents in the Aleutians, Bristol Bay, and western Alaska.
Given the increasing trend of this goose population along with tight regulations, we cautiously removed the Emperor Goose from our Red WatchList in 2017. It stays as a vulnerable species, but it stands as testament to the power of science-based monitoring, local community efforts, and regulation of threatened and endangered species.