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IWC attends Whaling Captains’ Convention, Utqiaġvik, Alaska

The IWC is honoured to be represented at the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission’s (AEWC) 2019 Annual Whaling Captains’ Convention, underway this week in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. 

Four IWC member governments conduct Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW).  The whaling communities are located mainly in remote, Arctic regions where whales provide a vital food source and cultural focus, and regulation of ASW is an important responsibility of the IWC. 

At the IWC meeting in September 2018, a number of new initiatives were endorsed in order to facilitate a more straight-forward process for considering ASW catch limits in the future (next in 2024). These initiatives include: a new timetable for sharing information from the hunts and receiving any feedback; a commitment to establish closer ties with international organisations focusing on indigenous rights; and perhaps most crucially, agreement that status quo catch limits would be renewed automatically and in perpetuity, assuming  a series of agreed steps continue to  be completed.

Amidst a wide-ranging agenda, the 2019  Convention is an opportunity to discuss these developments and also to receive a readout from this year’s IWC Scientific Committee meeting, which took place in May.

In Alaska, bowhead whales are harvested in eleven villages and managed by the AEWC through local tribal delegation of authority and U.S. federal delegation, co-management, and oversight.  Management practices are a blend of long-standing traditional knowledge, science, and modern regulation.  Throughout history, the whaling captains have maintained a tight-knit group of co-operative hunters and community leaders, with each village following its own unique methods for harvesting and sharing. 

The 2019 Convention will overlap with a centuries-old celebration known as Kivgiq or Messenger Feast.  This vibrant community festival includes traditional dancing, gift giving and sharing of food.

For more information on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling click here.

For more information on the Alaskan hunts click here.