VOL. 46, NO. 2 (JUNE 1-3) P. 134-137
Alaska and Inuvialuit Beluga Whale Committee (AIBWC) -
An Initiative in “At Home Management”
MARIE ADAMS!KATHRYN J. FROSTZ and LOIS A. HARWOOD3
(Received 3 December 1991; accepted in revised form 22 April 1992)
ABSTRACT. The Alaska and Inuvialuit Beluga Whale Committee (AIBWC) was formed 1988 to facilitate and promote the wise conservation,
management and utilization beluga whales in Alaska the western Canadian Arctic. The membership committee consists of representatives
of and of the
h m coastal beluga whale hunting regions and communities in Alaska Mackenzie River Delta in Canada, U.S. federal, state and local govemment
agencies, and others, such as researchers and technical advisors. Only representatives beluga whale hunting communities vote on matters related
to hunting, while the committee as a whole votes on other issues. Harvest monitoring programs are planned and coordinated at the spring meeting,
implemented during the whaling seasonby hunters and others and reported upon during the fall meeting. To date, the AIBWC has 1) established
beluga whale research priorities, 2) coordinated or assisted with the collection of samples for genetic, contaminant and basic biological studies,
3) provided fundingfor DNA studies, 4) commented on federal actions (e.g., relating to oil and gas exploration activity) with the potential toaffect
beluga whales, beluga habitat or beluga hunting, 5) collected the most complete harvest data ever available for Alaska, 6) produced a newsletter
highlighting importantmarine mammal issues for coastal residents of Alaska, and 7) sponsored the attendance of committee membersat meetings
of the International Whaling Commission. AIBWC recently ratifiedits draft Alaska beluga whale management a counterpart to the existing
plan for beluga whale management in the western Canadian Arctic, and has initiated discussionson a joint Inupiat-Inuvialuit plan for management
of the shared Beaufort Sea beluga whale stock.
Key words: beluga whale, Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, management, subsistence harvest, Inuvialuit, Inupiat
RÉSUMÉ. Le Alaska and Inuvialuit Beluga Whale Committee (comit6 le Mlouga de l’Alaska et de l’huvialuit [AIBWC]) a &6 form6 en 1988
pour faciliter et encourager une saine conservation, gestion et utilisation des Mlougas en Alaska et dans l’Arctique occidental canadien. Le comit6
est compos6 de reprksentants des communaut6s et des r6gions catibres de chasse au Mlouga en Alaska et dans le delta du Mackenzie au Canada,
de reprksentants d’organismes gouvernementaux amkricains niveau f6d6ral et r6gional ainsi qu’au niveau de l’gtat, et d’autres membres tels que
des chercheurs et des conseillers scientifiques. Seuls les reprksentants des communauds de chasse au Mlouga ont droit de vote sur les questions
traitant de la chasse, tandis que le comit6 au complet vote sur les autres questions. Des programmes de surveillance des prises sont planifiBs et
coordonn6s lors de la reunion de printemps, mis en application par les chasseurs ou d’autres individus pendant la saison de chasse h la baleine,
et ils font l’objet d’un rapportla dunion d’automne. Jusqu’i maintenant, le AIBWC a 1) ktabli des priorit6s de recherche sur le Mlouga, 2) coordonn6
ou facilit6 le pr6lbvement ‘ ds
d’khantillons en vue d& e g6n&ques, d‘ktudes sur la contamination,e d‘&des fondamentales de biologie, 3) subventiod
des &des sur l’A.D.N., 4) foumi ses commentaires sur mesures f&rales (p. ex., en rapport avec les activit6s d‘exploration p6trolibre
des et gazibre)
pouvant affecter les bblougas, leur habitat ou la chasse dont ils font l’objet, 5 ) rassembl6 les donnhs les plus complbtes jusqu’h pr6sent sur les
prises en Alaska, 6) publi6 pour les dsidents des &tes alaskiennes un bulletin de nouvelles traitant surtout des grandes questions concernant les
mammiferes marins, et 7) subventionnk la pr6sencede membres du comit6 aux r6unions de la Commission baleinibre internationale. Le AIBWC
a ratifi6 rkemment l’6bauche de son plan de gestion du Mlougade l’Alaska, qui fait pendant au plan actuel de gestion du Mlouga dans l’Arctique
occidental canadien, et a entam6 des pourparlers sur un plan gestion mixte Inupiat-Inuvialuit, pour stock baleinier commun mer deBeaufort.
de le en
Mots cl&: bBouga, mer de Beaufort, mer de BBring, gestion, prise de subsistance, Inuvialuit, Inupiat
Traduit pour le journal par N6sida Loyer.
In January 1988, the Inupiat of the North Slope of Alaska and the Bering Sea population,
concerns itself with beluga whales of
the Inuvialuit of the western Canadian Arctic signed an inter- believed to number 25 O00 - 30 O00 (Bums andSeaman, 1985).
national agreement for the management of polar bears in the After leaving their Bering Sea wintering area in early spring,
Beaufort Sea. The agreement was unique in that it was initiatedthese whales are thought to separate into four groups, often
and carried through to completion the hunter groups. After referred to provisional management stocks (Frost and Lowry,
completing this agreement, the Inuvialuit Game Council (IGC) 1990). During summer, these provisional stocks are found in
and the North Slope Borough (NSB) Fish Game Management NortonSound,BristolBay,theeasternChukchiSeanear
Committee considered similar agreement for a second important Kotzebue Sound and Point and in Canadian watersof the
transboundaryresource, the belugawhale (Delphinapterus easternBeaufortSeaandAmundsenGulf.Inaddition,an
leucas). However, unlike the polarbear, the baseline data for unknown portion of the Bering Sea population summers along
beluga whales had many areas where additionalinformation was The
the Siberian coast (Bums and Seaman, 1985). Cook Inlet
required for management. In particular, a coordinated effort population, separate from the Bering Sea population and also
to obtain biological and harvest information was much needed is a
within the mandate of the AIBWC, relict group that occurs
asafirststep. In responsetothisneed, an international south of the Alaska Peninsula (Sergeant and Brodie, 1969).
committee,whichincludedrepresentativesofthehunting Hunters from many villages along the coast of Alaska harvest
community, was formed. beluga whales from the above stocks during summer when the
of Alaska Inuvialuit
The goals the and BelugaWhale whales aggregate in coastal areas and during spring and fall
Committee (AIBWC) are to facilitate and promote the wise migrations(Lowry et al. , 1989).Inuvialuitharvestbeluga
conservation, managementand utilization of beluga whales in whales from the Beaufort Sea stock during summer (Strong,
AlaskaandthewesternCanadianArctic. The committee 1990), when a portion of the stock concentrates in the warm
‘North Slope Borough, Box 69, Barrow, Alaska 99723, U.S.A.
*Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 1300 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701, U.S.A.
3FisheriesJoint Management Committee, Box 2120, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada XOE OTO
@The Arctic Institute of North America
“ATHOMEMANAGEMENT” / 135
waters of the Mackenzie River estuary. To date, the harvests advisors, or a committeethatincludedbothgroupsasfull
animals required to cover
have been self-limited to the number of members. Clearly, a commission would have more latitude to
the basic subsistence needs of hunters and their families. make strong statements about hunting-related matters and to
serve as an advocacy group for hunters of the beluga whale.
STRUCTURE OF THE AIBWC However, a committee broader
demonstrate that beluga whale conservation was of fundamental
Since it was first formed, the Alaska and InuvialuitBeluga importance to all members, hunter and scientist alike. While
Whale Committee has five times. Meetings have been held the decision-makingprocess wouldbemorecomplex, the
in Fairbanks, Alaska, although in the future they may be held of
deliberations and recommendations such a committee would
in other parts of Alaska or in the western Canadian Arctic. represent full considerationof a variety of opinions andcarry
Meetings are held once or twice eachyear, usually before and the strength of consensus rather than the perceived bias of
after the whaling season. The five-member executive boardof advocacy. The group votedunanimously include
the committee consists people from cross section of villages
of a participants as full members..
andgovernment.Operatingby-laws for the AIBWC were Membership of the committee includes representatives of
drafted in 1988 and ratified on 7 November 1989. hunting regions and corimunities in Alaska (NSB, Northwest
The AIBWC hashunters, government scientists, researchers ,
Alaska Native Association [NANA] Kawerak [Norton Sound],
and technical advisors as full voting members. During early Calista Corp [AVCP],Bristol Bay Native Association [BBNA] ,
meetings, the group discussed at length the perceived advan- CookInletRegion Inc. [CIRII)and the MackenzieDelta
tagesanddisadvantages of.being a commissionofbeluga ,Fig.
region of Canada (Inuvialuit Settlement Region [ISR] 1) ,
hunters, with government attending technical
scientists as representatives of the Fisheries Joint Management Committee
FIG. . Beluga hunting regions in
I Alaska and Canada with hunter representation on AIBWC.
136 / M. ADAMS et al.
(FJMC) and InuvialuitGameCouncil(IGC), U.S. federal Sea region of Canada for over a decade, currently fundedby
(National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS]) and state (Alaska FJMC. Through the NSB, a similar program was initiated in
Department of Fish and Game [ADF&G]) government agencies, northern Alaska in 1987, shortly before the formation of the
Canada’s of and
Department Fisheries Oceans (DFO; as AIBWC. Informal harvest monitoring was conducted in other
observers) and others, such researchers and technical advisors. regionsofAlaskabyADF&G.Throughrecentadditional
Fundamental to the structure of the committee is this strong funding described above, the AIBWC coordinated the collectio
representation by beluga whale hunters. They have substantial of harvest information from areas in Alaska not already cover
local knowledge of beluga whale movements and biology, a within the NSB program.
considerable investment in the resource and much from The AIBWC provides an ongoing forum for coordination of
the sound management of beluga whale stocks. All AIBWC these and other beluga programs in Alaska and the western
discussionsanddecisionsaboutmanagementactions (e.g., Canadian Arctic and for sharing of data, results and ideas to
collection of harvest information biological samples) involve ensurethattheresultscollectedfromthesamestock are
hunter representatives, and in the many villages and communities meaningful and comparable. Workshop sessions about harvest
harvest data and samples acquired by or through the resource monitoring and sampling programs have been held at the regular
usersthemselves.Inotherwords,the AIBWC isbuilton AIBWC meetings. Data recording sheetsare standardized and
involvement in management fromthe roots up. In total, from are
sampling protocols explained to ensure that the monitoring
both Alaska and Canada the hunters make up well over half efforts in both western Canada and Alaska are coordinated.
the committee. Only representatives from beluga whale hunting The AIBWC has established beluga whale research priorities
communities vote on matters relating to hunting. and to date has 1) coordinated or assisted with the collection
Government scientists, researchers and technical advisors of samples for genetic, contardinant and basic biological studie
make up the balance of the committee. They provide technical 2) provided funding for DNA studies, andsupported beluga
support for conduct of programs and activities of the AIBWC
the whale surveys. Some of the programs would not have come
and oversee a number of functions, including consultation with about, at least not within time frame that has been achieved,
hunters,governmentandothers;collation,analysis,inter- without the forum and assistance of the AIBWC.
pretation and reportingofdatacollectedonbehalfofthe AIBWC has taken the lead role in preparing a management
AIBWC; raising funds for the operation and activities of the plan for beluga whales in Alaskan waters and for taking this
AIBWC; attending international meetings, etc. a similar way, plan to the villages and hunters in Alaska. Like other AIBWC
this component of thecommittee,is also from the rootsup, as activities, drafting of the plan was shared by a cross section
the members are largely from the local and regional offices. of committee members. The plan is similar in objectives, scope
However,governmentrepresentationonthe AIBWC does andcontent to the BeaufortSeaBelugaManagementPlan
ensure that upper levels of government are aware of committee (FJMC, 1991) prepared for beluga whales in Canadian waters.
activities through their own members. The two plans were prepared independently, but with feedba
Funding to hold AIBWC meetings has to date been providedbetween planning groups. The Alaskan plan has been accepted
by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA, for Alaskan hunters to the
by the AIBWC and is currently being presented to hunters
attend), the NSB (for hunters from northern Alaska andNSB in Alaska for ratification by each hunting village.
staff to attend) and FJMC and IGC (for Canadian delegates TheCanadianplanforBeaufortSeabelugawhaleswas
to attend). The attendance of AIBWC government members is finalized and signed in 1991 (FJMC, 1991). The plan provides
supported by the various government agencies. An increased a framework and guidelines for the long-term management of
funding base in recent years, primarily from BIA, and significant beluga whales in the BeaufodMackenzie area of Canada. It was
contributions of staff time by the NSBand ADF&G, have prepared by the FJMC, with assistance and support of local
allowedthecommittee to expand the numberandtypeof beluga whale hunters and DFO.
activitiesthat are conductedandsupported.Theseinclude These plans lay the groundwork for an international agreeme
increased consultation with the beluga whale hunters in Alaskan amongusergroupsinCanadaandAlaska.Huntersfrom
villagesregardingtheAlaskanBelugaManagementPlan, Diomede, Kivalina, Point Hope, Point Barrow and Kaktovik
publication of a newsletter, attendance at international meetings, in and from
Alaska hunters Aklavik, Inuvik,
support of new harvest monitoring programs and support of Tuktoyaktuk and Paulatuk in western Canadaare believed to
population assessment work. -
harvest from the same stock the eastern Beaufort Sea stock.
Discussions aabout management
WHATDOES THE AIBWC DO? agreement for this shared stock were initiated in 1991, in a
manner similar to the polar bear agreement mentioned earlier.
The committee has been involved in a number of programs Itisplannedthattheinternationalagreementwillinclude
and activities, including harvest monitoring, biological sampling directives regarding sharing of information and data, coordi-
and research, preparation of management plans, commenting nation of harvest and research activities and establishing a safe
on development activities that could affect beluga whales, beluga upper limit for the combined harvests from Alaska and Canad
habitat or beluga hunting, ensuring community consultation and We expect that preparation of this agreement will be one of
involvement in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) most importanttasks ahead for the committee in the near future.
process. We expect this list will grow and evolve over time, in,
Beluga whales migrate through, and summer areas where
as issues are resolved and new ones appear, as more data are oil and gas exploration and production activities under way
collected and questionsare answered or raised, andas manage- or are planned, where commercial fisheries may take place in
ment plans and agreements are completed. the future, where contaminants may enter environments and fo
There has been a relatively extensive beluga whale harvest chains and where hydroelectric projectsmay be developed in
monitoring program under in the Mackenzie Deltakaufort the future. The AIBWC has discussed and formally commented
“AT HOME MANAGEMENT” / 137
on federal actions relating to oil and gas exploration activity and the number of beluga whales in each and increasing our
in Alaska. These comments provided background information understanding of the effects of industrial activity on survival
on beluga whale biology, important habitats and the utilization reproduction of beluga whale stocks. It is also important
ofbelugawhalesbysubsistencehuntersformanagersand thatSiberianbelugawhalestocksbeincludedin AIBWC
regulatoryagenciestouseintheissuance of permitsand discussions and that Russian hunters and scientists become a
licenses. In other more specific cases, AIBWC has provided part of the process.
a firm opinion concerning an issue or development.
The AIBWC recently joined the Arctic Marine Resources ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Commission (AMRC) to deal with oil and gas issues along
the north and northwestern coasts of Alaska. organization
This In this paper we have reported on the contributions and efforts of
was incorporated in February 1991, with representatives from in of
many people instrumental the formation, business and activitiesthe
the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Bering and ChukchiAIBWC, most notably, but not limitedmembers of the committee.
Sea fishermen’s associations and the Alaska Eskimo Walrus Collectively the AIBWCgratefully acknowledges funding provided by
BIA and the various member agencies (NSB,ADF&F, FJMC, IGC,
Commission. NMFS, DFO), Herb Smelcer ofBIA,and the many huntersand
As the IWC has indicated a growing interestthe manage-
in scientists who have given freely of their in support of the various
ment of small cetaceans and thus beluga whales, the AIBWC programs sponsored by the AIBWC. Susan Rose ofArts, Inuvik, Rose
will have an increasingly important role at the international N.W.T., Canada, the
drafted figure. We thank Lloyd Lowry
level. It is the AIBWC’s intent to demonstrate effective and (ADF&G), Geoff Carroll (ADF&G), Norm Snow (JointSecretariat)
responsible “at home of beluga
management” the whale and three reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.
resource. TheAIBWC sponsors one member to attend IWC the
meetings each year. In addition, in 1991 a scientist member of REFERENCES
AIBWC attended the IWC scientific subcommittee meetings
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