Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission Defends Bowhead Quota

In advance of discussions leading up to a vote on the Proposal by the Russian Federation, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and the United States of America (, the following statement was prepared and read by George Noongwook, Chair of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC).

“Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak here today.  My name is George Noongwook.  I am a whaling captain from Savoonga, Alaska, and I am Chair of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.  Together, we represent four of the eleven northern Alaskan villages that depend on bowhead whales.  Life in our villages is a lot different from what most of you are experiencing.  Most of you here go to a grocery store on a regular basis for your food.  We in Savoonga have one grocery store.  You might find canned milk there. A pound of meat, if you can find it, might be $12.00 per pound.  We have fuel there, and a gallon of gas is $7.00.  We don’t get much food form the store.  We get most of our food from the ocean – whales, walrus, and fish.  This is how we feed our children, our families, and our elders.

This is how we have fed our families for over 2000 years.

We’ve been coming to IWC since 1977. Most of you will never visit our villages, but the decisions you make here have real impacts on lives.  We take your decisions seriously and abide by them.  Everybody knows that when our quota is discussed at IWC, everybody stays up at night, wondering…how will we feed our family?  Our bowhead whale stocks are healthy and able to withstand our hunt.

I’m sure most of you have never had to prove your need for food from your sources. but we are told we have to prove our need for food from our only reliable source of food – the oceans.

In 1977, the IWC asked us to asked us to improve the efficiency of our hunt.  Our average efficiency is 75 percent, despite spring ice that makes our hunt harder.  We were asked to upgrade our weapons to Penthrite (harpoons).  We have done that.

In spite of all of our efforts, we have faced many threats to our subsistence quota due to politics here, and all sides of the debate of commercial whaling.  This is devastating to our communities back home.  I don’t want to be negative – its’ not my way.  But I want to ask you to consider that your decisions here have impacts on real people.  Our way of life may seem foreign to you, but we are people like you are – we have families.  The food we take from the oceans keep our families alive and healthy.  Our hunting practices allow us to keep our families and cultures healthy.  Several of us have left our families to be here to answer your questions.  I want to thank you for your support for us to allow us to take whales at current levels.  Thank you very much.”

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5 Comments on “Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission Defends Bowhead Quota”

  1. An important perspective. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Barbara Bennett Says:

    In the case of Inpuiat whaling, which is a subsistence hunt, as opposed to a cultural hunt (Makah), something to be noted is the non-confrontational aspect of the Inupiat culture. In an environment as harsh as the Arctic, getting along is paramount. I can’t state strongly enough the courage that it takes for these people to speak out and to an international audience such as the IWC. In this instance, it is the Inupiat culture that is more endangered than the Beaufort Sea stock of bowhead whales that they hunt. (The Beaufort Sea stock of bowhead whales is 12,000 + and growing at a rate of around 3.5% annually.) Great respect is given to the whales that are hunted and nothing is taken for granted. The Inupiat view themselves as an integral part of the food web rather than the controlling factor that is extolled in Western culture. The Inupiat actually started the “grass roots” conservation movement as we know it today in the United States, something that is often overlooked. (In 1958, Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, unveiled his plan to detonate six nuclear bombs off the Alaskan coast to create a new harbor. However, the plan was blocked by a handful of Eskimos and biologists who succeeded in preventing massive nuclear devastation potentially far greater than that of the Chernobyl blast – It is important to remember that biodiversity can apply to peoples as well as plants and animals in terms of a healthy planet, something to think about the next time you order a cheeseburger or any other agricultural product.

    • Joe Says:

      Well said, Barbara! I don’t think that SVG can make anything even close to the same claims and this is even more reason why the blanket request should be decoupled!

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