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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.


Notice; notification of quota for bowhead whales.


NMFS notifies the public of the aboriginal subsistence whaling quota for bowhead whales that it has assigned to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC), and of limitations on the use of the quota deriving from regulations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). For 2016, the quota is 75 bowhead whales struck. This quota and other applicable limitations govern the harvest of bowhead whales by members of the AEWC.


Effective February 18, 2016.


Office for International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

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Melissa Andersen Garcia, (301) 427-8385.

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Aboriginal subsistence whaling in the United States is governed by the Whaling Convention Act (WCA) (16 U.S.C. 916 et seq.). Under the WCA, IWC regulations shall generally become effective with respect to all persons and vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, within 90 days of notification from the IWC Secretariat of an amendment to the IWC Schedule (16 U.S.C. 916k). Regulations that implement the WCA, 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 64th Annual Meeting of the IWC, the Commission set catch limits for aboriginal subsistence use of bowhead whales from the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock. The bowhead catch limits were based on a joint request by the United States and the Russian Federation, accompanied by documentation concerning the needs of two Native groups: Alaska Eskimos and Chukotka Natives in the Russian Far East.

The IWC set a 6-year block catch limit of 336 bowhead whales landed. For each of the years 2013 through 2018, the number of bowhead whales struck may not exceed 67, except that any unused portion of a strike quota from any prior year may be carried forward. No more than 15 strikes may be added to the strike quota for any one year. At the end of the 2015 harvest, there were 15 unused strikes available for carry-forward, so the combined strike quota set by the IWC for 2016 is 82 (67 + 15).

An arrangement between the United States and the Russian Federation ensures that the total quota of bowhead whales landed and struck in 2016 will not exceed the limits set by the IWC. Under this arrangement, the Russian natives may use no more than seven strikes, and the Alaska Eskimos may use no more than 75 strikes.

Through its cooperative agreement with the AEWC, NOAA has assigned 75 strikes to the Alaska Eskimos. The AEWC will in turn allocate these strikes among the 11 villages whose cultural and subsistence needs have been documented, and will ensure that its hunters use no more than 75 strikes.

Other Limitations

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

NOAA regulations (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.
  • Captains and crew 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 to engage in an efficient operation.
  • Crew 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 American 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: February 11, 2016.

John Henderschedt,

Director, Office for International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 2016-03366 Filed 2-17-16; 8:45 am]