Aghiyuk, Semidi Islands

The Semidis are a group of islands lying off the Alaska Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. The largest islands of the group are Aghiyuk Island and Chowiet Island and are part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The name Aghiyuk is derived from Achaiak, the Aleut word for cormorant, a common coastal seabird. From about 1746, Russian fur traders were transplanting blue foxes to the Aleutian islands. To the Russians, foxes were not nearly as important as sea otters and fur seals but were valuable enough to release and fend for themselves. The Russians continued this practice for about 125 years, and during that time, hunters collected hundreds of thousands of fox skins and shipped them to markets in Russia and China. The blue fox is a color phase of the coastal Arctic or white fox, which is circumpolar in range. The blue fox is dark bluish in winter and tends toward brownish in summer. The first recorded efforts to raise blue foxes after the purchase of Alaska by the United States began in 1885. The Semidi Propagating Company of Kodiak obtained 8 or 10 pairs of blue foxes from the Pribilofs and placed them on several islands including Aghiyuk. After a few years of success, there was a decline in the industry, and the island fox farms were abandoned and most or all of the stock of foxes removed. Interest revived in about 1916 and developed so rapidly that by 1925 almost all the islands in the Gulf of Alaska suitable for the enterprise were occupied by fox farms. The market for blue foxes dropped significantly starting in 1931, and the few farms that survived the Great Depression were abandoned when World War II ended the demand for furs. Read more here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore Aghiyuk and the Semidi Islands.