Final Environment Impact Statement for Issuing Annual Quotas to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission for a Subsistence Hunt on Bowhead Whales for the Years 2013 Through 2018
Final EIS regarding bowhead whale subsistence quotas for 2013–2018.
NOAA Fisheries proposes to authorize subsistence harvests of the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales for the years 2013 through 2018, under the Whaling Convention Act and the Cooperative Agreement with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC). Under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has adopted management principles for setting subsistence catch limits for the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales based upon the needs of Native hunters in Alaskan villages and in Russian villages along the Chukotka Peninsula, and may adopt catch limits for specific years. NOAA Fisheries issues the AEWC the Alaskan share of this catch limit. The subsequent hunt is managed cooperatively by NOAA Fisheries and the AEWC under the Whaling Convention Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The purpose of this action is twofold: to manage the conservation and subsistence utilization of the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales (as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Whaling Convention Act, and other applicable laws) and to fulfill the Federal Government's trust responsibility to recognize the cultural and subsistence needs of Alaska Natives. The IWC held its 64th meeting in June and July 2012 in Panama City, Panama, and based on the management advice of the IWC Scientific Committee, adopted a catch limit at the same annual levels as the previous five-year period. Alternative 3B is the Agency's preferred alternative. Alternative 3B would authorize a maximum mortality of 82 bowheads in a single year, if the authorized carry-forward of 15 unused strikes were to occur. The subsistence whaling harvest is also subject to an overall limit of no more than 306 landed bowhead whales over the six-year period 2013 through 2018. This level of mortality is considered negligible in magnitude for the bowhead population, in light of current abundance and growth trends. The overall effects of human activities associated with subsistence whaling under Alternative 3B results in a minor impact rating for the Western Arctic bowhead whale stock.