Prince William Sound encompasses 3,500 miles of coastline, 4.4 million acres of National Forest and 10,000 square miles of waterways, islands, fjords and glaciers straddling the 60th parallel. The Sound's bays, coves and deep fjords exceed the combined area of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. There are five small communities in the Sound: Valdez, Cordova, Whittier, the Native Village of Tatitlek, and the Native Village of Chenega Bay. The communities of Valdez, Whittier and Cordova are portals to the Sound, providing access for commercial fishing fleets, recreation and tourism. All five communities have harbors serving residents, a variety of commercial vessels and recreational and tourism vessels.
World reknowned, wild Copper River and Prince William Sound salmon are the iconic species in Prince William Sound and have defined the region’s culture and economy for over 10,000 years. Additionally herring, halibut, hooligan, sablefish (black cod) several species of rockfish, Dolly Varden and cutthroat trout are found in the Sound.
Terrestrial and marine mammals are perhaps the second most recognized symbols of Alaska after wild salmon. The Prince William Sound experience is often represented by photos of sea otters, killer whales, Stellar sea lions, porpoises, minke whales, brown and black bears, dall sheep, mountain goats, wolves, Sitka black tail deer and moose. There are approximately 160 Orcas, or killer whales, in eight resident pods. The Sound is also vitally important to the north Pacific population of humpback whales. An endangered species, humpback whales are commonly found throughout the Sound where they put on important fat reserves in its rich waters before migrating in late winter to the warm and safe calving and breeding shores of the Hawaiian Islands, where they do not feed. Prince William Sound’s shellfish resources include scallops, shrimp, crab, mussels and clams.
Small fisheries exist for scallops, sidestripe shrimp (trawl) and spot shrimp (pot). Commercial fisheries for Dungeness, golden king and tanner crab in Prince William Sound started closing in the 1980’s due to overfishing.
219 species of birds have been recorded in Prince William Sound, 111 of which are primarily water related including Cormorants, Loons, Grebes, scoters, White-winged and surf scooters, Barrows Goldeneye, Harlequin ducks, common mergansers, Dunlins, western sandpipers, Black oyster catchers, common murres, pigeon guillemots, marbled and Kittlitz’s murrelets, parakeet auklets, tufted and horned puffins and Black-legged kittiwakes. It is estimated that 6,000 seasonal and year-round bald eagles live in Prince William Sound.
The Copper River Delta, which lies just to the southeast of Prince William Sound, is a major migratory bird route. Each spring a spectacular display of five to seven million shorebirds migrate to the mud flats and shorelines of the Copper River Delta, to feed on tiny crustaceans, clams, aquatic insects and plants before many continue on to Arctic nesting grounds.