Successful whale hunts boost spirits
September 21st, 2013 | Carey Restino
The fall whale hunt is going much better so far than the dismal spring hunt for much of the Arctic.
As of Monday, 12 whales had been reported landed in various Arctic communities, including five in Barrow, where the spring whale hunt was the most challenging in memory, elders said.
Last spring, unusually thin ice kept whalers at home for much of the season. Barrow landed only two whales in the spring. Their annual quota is 22 whales, so there's a lot of ground to make up.
Tuuqmak Diaz, administrative manager for the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, which monitors and records all whaling activity across the Arctic, said if the whalers catch the remaining whales for the community's quota, it will be a lot of work to process it all, but welcome work.
"I know it's a blessing," she said. "It helps keep us warm."
Kaktovik was the first community to land a whale this fall. The first whale was struck on Aug. 30, prompting a community-wide celebration. Another whale was landed Sept. 5 and a third on Sept. 12.
Nuiqsut has landed four whales, with one struck and lost. The whales were landed on Sept. 1, 5, and 13th.
In Barrow, the whalers brought whales ashore a little later, with three strikes on Sept. 15 and two landed on Sept. 16.
The communities of Wainwright and Point Hope haven't reported any whales landed yet, and Diaz said she has heard Wainwright's whalers haven't gone out yet. "They are still hunting caribou," she said.
The 11 communities managed by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission is allowed an annual total of 75 strikes on whales — a number determined by the International Whaling Commission. The strikes are distributed based on the size of the community. If a whale is struck but not landed, that still counts as a strike used.