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Whaling Provisions: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Quotas

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National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.


Notification of aboriginal subsistence whaling quota.


NMFS announces the aboriginal subsistence whaling quota for bowhead whales, and other limitations deriving from regulations adopted at the 2002 Special Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). For 2003, the quota is 75 bowhead whales struck. This quota and other limitations will govern the harvest of bowhead whales by members of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC).


Effective April 1, 2003.


Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

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Chris Yates, (301) 713-2322.

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Aboriginal subsistence whaling in the United States is governed by the Whaling Convention Act (16 U.S.C. 916 et seq.). Regulations that implement the Act, found at 50 CFR 230.6, require the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) to publish, at least annually, aboriginal subsistence whaling quotas and any other limitations on aboriginal subsistence whaling deriving from regulations of the IWC.

At the 2002 Special Meeting of the IWC, the Commission set quotas for aboriginal subsistence use of bowhead whales from the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock. The bowhead quota was based on a joint request by the United States and the Russian Federation, accompanied by documentation concerning the needs of 2 Native groups: Alaska Eskimos and Chukotka Natives in the Russian Far East.

This action by the IWC thus authorized aboriginal subsistence whaling by the AEWC for bowhead whales. This aboriginal subsistence harvest is conducted in accordance with a cooperative agreement between NOAA and the AEWC.

The IWC set a 5-year block quota of 280 bowhead whales landed. For each of the years 2003 through 2007, the number of bowhead whales struck may not exceed 67, except that any unused portion of a strike quota from any year, including 15 unused strikes from the 1998 through 2002 quota, may be carried forward. No more than 15 strikes may be added to the strike quota for any 1 year. At the end of the 2002 harvest, there were 15 unused strikes available for carry-forward, so the combined strike quota for 2003 is 82 (67 + 15).

This arrangement ensures that the total quota of bowhead whales landed and struck in 2003 will not exceed the quotas set by the IWC. Under an arrangement between the United States and the Russian Federation, the Russian natives may use no more than seven strikes, and the Alaska Eskimos may use no more than 75 strikes.

NOAA is assigning 75 strikes to the Alaska Eskimos. The AEWC will allocate these strikes among the 10 villages whose cultural and subsistence needs have been documented in past requests for bowhead quotas from the IWC, and will ensure that its hunters use no more than 75 strikes.

Other Limitations

The IWC regulations, as well as the NOAA rule at 50 CFR 230.4(c), forbid the taking of calves or any whale accompanied by a calf.

NOAA rules (at 50 CFR 230.4) contain a number of other prohibitions relating to aboriginal subsistence whaling, some of which are summarized here. Only licensed whaling captains or crew under the control of those captains may engage in whaling. They must follow the provisions of the relevant cooperative agreement between NOAA and a Native American whaling organization. The aboriginal hunters must have adequate crew, supplies, and equipment. They may not receive money for participating in the hunt. No person may sell or offer for sale whale products from whales taken in the hunt, except for authentic articles of Native handicrafts. Captains may not continue to whale after the relevant quota is taken, after the season has been closed, or if their licenses have been suspended. They may not engage in whaling in a wasteful manner.

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Dated: March 25, 2003.

Rebecca Lent,

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 03-7785 Filed 3-31-03; 8:45 am]