Bob King, from U.S. Sen Mark Begich's office, with Eskimo whalers Harry Brower Jr., Johnny Aiken and George Noongwook at the IWC meetings in the Channel Islands. - Courtesy Photo, Courtesy photo

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International Whaling Commission report: Preparing for possible fight next year

July 12th, 2011 | Alex DeMarban Print this article   Email this article  

Fears Eskimo whalers will face opposition at the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting have so far been overblown, reports Jessica Lefevre, attorney for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission based in Barrow.

Events may be more exciting next year when the commission must make a decision: granting a five-year renewal (67 strikes annually) of the bowhead quota for Eskimo villages, suggested Lefevre.

Lefevre is attending the group's 63rd meeting in the Channel Islands and emailed an update to The Arctic Sounder.

Lefevre reports that Alaskans are busy educating new commissioners about the traditional Alaska hunt and preparing for next year's crucial decision in other ways.

Lefevre also notes that a newly created working group may help address some countries' concerns over subsistence whaling, perhaps quelling a bit of the controversy before next year's meeting.

Here's the email from Lefevre:

"The AEWC is being represented at the meeting by Harry Brower, Chairman, George Noongwook, Vice Chair, Johnny Aiken, Executive Director, Mayor Edward Itta, Eugene Brower, Chair of the AEWC's Weapons Improvement Program, former Senator Al Adams, Senator Lyman Hoffman, Craig George of NSB Wildlife Management, and Jessica Lefevre and Earl Comstock, AEWC Counsel. Also at the meeting on behalf of the AEWC is Bob King of Senator Mark Begich's office.

As Chairman of the AEWC, Harry Brower is also a member of the U.S. Delegation.

Last week the IWC Subcommittees and Working Groups met, including the Whale Killing Methods (WKM) Working Group, the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) Subcommittee, and the Infractions Subcommittee. An infraction has to be reported in the bowhead hunt if a whale is struck or landed over the quota limit or if a calf is taken.

The AEWC Delegation attended the Infractions Subcommittee, although there were no infractions in the bowhead whale hunt to be reported this year. For the WKM Working Group, Chairman Brower asked the U.S. delegation to allow Eugene Brower to present a video showing a whale taken during the spring hunt in Barrow. The AEWC Delegation also attended the ASW Subcommittee meeting; however, since the AEWC is not asking for a quota this year, there were no issues raised on the bowhead hunt.

The IWC Plenary session started yesterday, Monday, July 11. Eugene Brower again presented the whaling video, along with a power point presentation on the bowhead hunt and the penthrite projectile (Editor's note: the penthrite grenade is a modern weapon considered more humane than traditional black-powder grenades).

The United States submitted a proposal to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on ASW to work inter-sessionally between this year's and next year's annual meetings. Its purpose will be to address issues raised by member countries about subsistence whaling, with the hope that directing those issues toward a working group will make it less likely that the issues will be raised during the meeting next year as an excuse for opposing subsistence quotas, which will be up for renewal next year.

At this meeting, the AEWC Delegation is working very hard to build relationships with the commissioners from other member countries. Fifty-two percent of the more-than-60 IWC commissioners are new this year, so the AEWC is focusing its efforts on educating new commissioners in advance of next year's meeting.

At this point, no country is raising issues about the bowhead whale hunt.

The IWC should finish its consideration of ASW issues by tomorrow noon, so I'll send an update.

As you can see, most of this meeting is much ado about nothing. Next year, unfortunately, is likely to be a bit more exciting."


Alex DeMarban can be reached at, or by phone at (907) 348-2444

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