Observing Bowhead Whales of the Chukotka Coast
Blending Traditional Knowledge and Western Science
The Bowhead Whale Coastal Observation Project studies the distribution and abundance of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea bowhead whale population and documents marine mammal sightings off the coast of Chukotka. The North Slope Borough's Department of Wildlife Management in partnership with the Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka, Russia, is networking with Native coordinators and observers and cooperating with Russian scientists.
Every two weeks the Native observers deliver the information they collect directly to the scientists. This offers scientists an opportunity to analyze the data and stay abreast of the changes occurring within the whale population. The project provides training and job opportunities to the marine mammal hunters in Chukotkan villages and continues the traditional ecological knowledge studies that the North Slope Borough and Chukotkan Native organizations started in the early 1990s.
This project is very important to the Eskimo and Chukchi, Native peoples that reside in Northwestern Alaska and Eastern Chukotka, because the bowhead whales are an integral part of their subsistence life style and cultural heritage. The Bowhead Coastal Observation Project provides information to the International Whaling Commission, the international organization that is responsible for establishing whale harvest quotas.
The first two years of the Bowhead Coastal Observation Project were successfully completed, and the project is now in its third year. If you would like to learn more about this project, click on the 2010-2011 field report.