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Soundings Archive

New Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Quota for Bowheads
Effective March 23, 2011, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has established a new aboriginal subsistence whaling quota for bowhead whales from the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock. This quota is assigned to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. For 2011, the quota is 75 bowhead whales. This quota and other limitations govern the harvest of bowhead whales by members of the AEWC.

Aboriginal subsistence whaling in the United States is governed by the Whaling Convention Act, 16 U.S.C. 916 et seq. Regulations that implement the Act, which are found at 50 CFR 230.6, require the Secretary of Commerce to publish, at least annually, aboriginal subsistence whaling quotas and any other limitations on aboriginal subsistence whaling deriving from regulations of the International Whaling Commission.

The IWC set a 5-year block quota of 280 bowhead whales landed. For each of the years 2008 through 2012, the number of bowhead whales struck may not exceed 67, except that any unused portion of a strike quota from any year, including 15 unused strikes from the 2003 through 2007 quota, may be carried forward. No more than 15 strikes may be added to the strike quota for any one year. At the end of the 2010 harvest, there were 15 unused strikes available for carry-forward, so the combined strike quota for 2011 is 82 (67 + 15).

This arrangement ensures that the total quota of bowhead whales landed and struck in 2011 will not exceed the catch limits set by the IWC. Under an arrangement between the United States and the Russian Federation, the Russian natives may use no more than seven strikes, and the Alaska Eskimos may use no more than 75 strikes.

Through its cooperative agreement with the AEWC, NOAA has assigned 75 strikes to the Alaska Eskimos. The AEWC will allocate these strikes among the 11 villages whose cultural and subsistence needs have been documented, and will ensure that its hunters use no more than 75 strikes.

The IWC regulations, as well as the NOAA regulation at 50 CFR 230.4(c), forbid the taking of calves or any whale accompanied by a calf. NOAA regulations (at 50 CFR 230.4) contain a number of other prohibitions relating to aboriginal subsistence whaling, which are not discussed here.

  • Click here to read NOAA's Federal Register notice of quota
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