The principal islands are St. Paul (named from St. Peter and St. Paul's Day, on which it was discovered) and St. George (probably named after Pribilof's ship). The Otter and Walrus islets are near St. Paul.
The islands were first sighted in 1767 by Joan Synd, and were visited in 1786 by Gerasim Pribilof, who discovered the fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) rookeries for which they became famous. From Russia, the islands passed with Alaska to the United States in 1867. From 1870 to 1890 the United States government leased the islands to the Alaska Commercial Company. From 1890 through 1910, the North American Commercial Company held the monopoly on seal-hunting on the islands, but the industry shrank considerably owing to pelagic sealing.
Under the Fur Seal Act of 1966, hunting of these seals is forbidden in the Pribilof Islands with the exception of subsistence hunting by Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos who live on the islands.