U.S. delegates at the IWC meeting in Japan, including Inupiat officials from Alaska, failed to reverse a ban on subsistance whaling by the International Whaling Commission. The final effort fell one vote short on the 48-nation commission, a delegation spokesman said.
“We were right in the middle of a political football game,” said North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmaogak, a whaling captain and one of the U.S. delegates. “We’re very disappointed with the outcome. Where we go from here is something we need to talk about with our U.S. government, but we will continue subsistence whaling on a sustainable basis.” In Barrow, leaders said the diplomatic struggle in Japan won’t stop their whaling. “It’s a part of our culture and tradition that’s been around for thousands of years,” said Jacob Adams, president of the powerful Arctic Slope Regional Corp., who is on subsistence leave this week to lead his whaling crew. “Nobody can come around and say you need to stop it because I said so.’ “ Hanging in the balance is a well-regarded program of international scientific cooperation and self-policing by Alaska’s Inupiat. Eskimos have hunted whales under IWC quotas for 25 years. Bowhead whales are listed as an endangered species. But the Bering Sea population, once feared to be below 2,000 — is around 10,000 and growing, according to the latest census. Under the IWC quota, 10 Alaska villages landed 49 bowheads last year and struck and lost 26 others.