990 tons of whale How big was the average whale? About 30 feet long, Aiken said. The general rule of thumb among whalers is that bowheads tip thescales at 1 ton per foot. Using that rough math, about 990 tons wascaught this year. Whales about 30 feet long are just the right size, not too big andnot too small, Aiken said. They make for perfect eating becausethey're generally younger with softer meat. |
Because they're not toolarge, they can also be towed ashore and butchered more quickly,allowing the internal heat to escape faster, resulting infresher-tasting blubber and meat. Elsewhere on the North Slope, the Inupiat village of Point Hope , located 300 miles southwest of Barrow, also had a noteworthyspring. That village of about 650 landed five whales and lost none.They have five strikes remaining for the fall. Savoonga , a village of 700 located on St.
Lawrence Island not far fromRussia's shores, landed six whales and also lost none. Whalersthere have two strikes left for the fall. Weather also cooperated in Wales , a Bering Strait village of about 150 people located at the westernmost tip of North America . A crew landed the community's first whale in several years because the sea ice provided a solid base for hauling the whaleashore with an ice-anchored pulley system powered by humans. Inpast years, warmer-than-normal temperatures softened the ice toomuch.
In the whaling villages this spring, crews had a 70 percentstruck-loss ratio. In the whaling villages this spring, 70 percentof the whales struck were landed. If that percentage gets too low,it can provide fodder for critics of whaling who especially don'tlike to see whales struck by whaling bombs without being landed. An 80 percent ratio is normal for an entire year. Percentagesusually rise in the fall, Aiken says.
Quota renewal due in June Scientists say the endangered bowhead population has grown foryears. The stock that migrates off Alaska's coast is estimated to be morethan 13,000 whales, said an official with the North Slope Borough'swildlife department said this spring. The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission is now looking ahead to the International Whaling Commission meeting in Panama starting in late June, where a delegation ofAlaska whalers will look to renew their quota for five more years. Issues of concern include new commissioners who may not understandthe value of bowhead whaling to Alaska's Inupiat. There's also thematter of how commissioners will view recently struck plea agreements with federal prosecutors involving two former officials in the whaling commission.
Reforms have been implemented to prevent that from happening again,including a rule that bars a single person from cashing and writingchecks on their own. "We've made a lot of progress the last two years and we've had verygood independent audits," Aiken said. Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com.
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