Conservationists Lend Support to Alaska’s Subsistence Whalers

Alaska’s subsistence whalers are winning support from an unlikely faction at this year’s International Whaling Commission meeting: the conservationists.

The event is expected to be a precursor for next year’s meeting, when the IWC is expected to decide whether or not to renew subsistence whaling quotas for another five years.

North Slope Borough Mayer Edward Itta is in Jersey, England for the international gathering. He says Alaska’s delegation have spent much of their time trying to educate and build relationships with the non-governmental organizations at the meeting.

Itta says in the past, conservationists had been most concerned with issues like whales that had been struck but lost, and the length of time it takes for harvested whales to perish after being struck.

He says delegates from the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission weapons improvement program made a presentation this week showing their recent efforts to address those issues.

More than half of the IWC commissioners this year are new since the last time subsistence whaling quotas were up for renewal. Itta says it looks like that will work in favor of native hunters, but won’t guarantee an easy time during next year’s discussions.

The United States is one of only four countries in the IWC involved in aboriginal subsistence whaling.

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Jake Neher is a reporter at KBRW in Barrow.

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