Final Environmental Impact Statement for Issuing Annual Quotas to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission for a Subsistence Hunt on Bowhead Whales for the Years 2008 Through 2012
NOAA Fisheries proposes to authorize subsistence harvests of the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales for the years 2008 through 2012, under the Whaling Convention Act, and a cooperative agreement with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.
NOAA Fisheries proposes to authorize subsistence harvests of the Western Arctic stock of bowhead whales for the years 2008 through 2012, under the Whaling Convention Act, and a cooperative agreement with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the International Whaling Commission approves overall five-year 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. On an annual basis, NOAA Fisheries can issue the AEWC the Alaskan share of this quota by regulation. The subsequent hunt is managed under the Whaling Convention Act, cooperatively by NOAA Fisheries and the AEWC. 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 conducted its 59th Annual Meeting, May 28-31, 2007 in Anchorage, Alaska, and, based on the management advice of the IWC Scientific Committee, adopted a catch limit for 2008 through 2012 identical to that of the previous five-year period. Alternative 3 corresponds to the IWC action, and is the Agency’s preferred alternative. Alternative 3 would authorize a maximum mortality of 82 bowheads in a single year, if the authorized carry-over of 15 unused strikes were to occur. The subsistence harvest is also subject to an overall limit of no more than 255 bowhead whales over the five-year period 2008 through 2012. 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 3 results in a minor impact rating for the Western Arctic bowhead whale stock.