Subject: Canada natives prepare controv (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 5 May 1998 15:14:47 -0400 (EDT)

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
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          "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call,
   Wanted to sail upon your waters, since I was three feet tall"
                        Jimmy Buffett

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon,  4 May 98 12:40:00 GMT 
Subject: Canada natives prepare controv

Canada natives prepare controversial whale hunt

    By Robert Melnbardis
     MONTREAL, April 27 (Reuters) - A plan by Canadian
aboriginals to hunt a bowhead whale in the Arctic this summer
will revive an ancient cultural tradition but promises to
outrage conservationists seeking to protect the endangered
     A committee of Inuit community leaders are putting the
finishing touches to plans for the hunt of the massive whale
with the bow-shaped skull to be launched from Pangnirtung, a
remote community in Cumberland Sound on the eastern tip of
Baffin Island.
     "We are trying to finalize the hunt plan. This week, the
committee will review the recommendations put forward by our
working group," Joanasie Akumalik, executive director of the
Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board, told Reuters in an interview from
the Baffin Island town of Iqaluit.
     The hunt could take place in late July if Canada's
Department of Fisheries and Oceans awards the Inuit, formerly
known as Eskimos, a license to go ahead.
     The bowhead whale is an ocean leviathan that can grow to a
length of up to 60 feet (18.5-m) and weigh 80 tons (80,000-kg).
Named for its massive bow-shaped skull, the mammal ranges
through circumpolar Arctic waters, from the Bering Sea off
Alaska through the Beaufort Sea to Canada's Baffin Bay and Davis
     It is considered one of the most seriously endangered of the
large whales, and has been protected under worldwide law since
1935. Valued for its thick blubber and rich oil, the bowhead was
hunted to near extinction in the last century, mainly by
non-native whalers.
     Estimates are that less than 8,000 bowheads now roam the
pristine frigid waters of the Arctic where once there were
     Conservationists are outraged by the Inuit hunt and the
Canadian government's acquiescence to aboriginals' demands that
they be allowed to revive a bowhead whaling tradition abandoned
for 80 years.
     "I think it is quite laughable that the federal government
would list this animal as critically endangered and then turn
around and allow a yearly hunting of its population," said Rick
Smith, Canadian director of the International Fund for Animal
Welfare (IFAW).
     The Inuit demanded the right to resume bowhead hunting on a
regulated basis as part of their signing of a 1993 land-claims
settlement that will create a new Canadian territory called
Nunavut next April.
     The Inuit hunt of a 45-ton bowhead in August 1996 provoked a
backlash from animal rights activists and the U.S. government.
The bowhead was harpooned and shot so many times, its lungs
filled with blood and water, causing it to sink.
     The whale's decaying body rose to the surface two days
later, and was towed into port. Much of the carcass, however,
was discarded rather than distributed to Inuit communities as
     The Inuit say this year's hunt will be better managed.
     "We learned from the bad things and used the good things.
The hunt will be much stricter this time around," said Ben
Kovic, chairman of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board.
      Still, conservationists say Canada could be criticized at a
meeting in Oman next month of the International Whaling
Commission, the body that regulates commercial whaling.
     Last year, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor
threatened to ban Canadian fish imports because of the 1996
bowhead cull. President Clinton also pressed Canadian Prime
Minister Jean Chretien to bring Canada back into the whaling
     Canada quit the whaling commission in 1982 on the grounds it
does not engage in commercial whaling. But animal rights
activists say that allows Canada to sidestep pressure to stem
aboriginal hunting of endangered species like the bowhead.
     "When Canada withdrew from the IWC, they set themselves up
as a pirate whaling nation," said Paul Watson, co-founder of
Greenpeace and now the head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
     The Inuit argue that reviving the bowhead hunt is important
culturally and spiritually for the Inuit, who hunt the much
smaller beluga and narwhal whales for subsistence.
     "It is very important. It brings back our culture that was
taken away by whalers," said Kovic, whose grandfather was an
American whaler who settled in Canada's Arctic.
     But conservationists like Watson worry that reviving the
Inuit hunt will set a dangerous precedent. Whaling nations such
as Japan and Norway could use similar arguments about protecting
cultural heritage as a pretext to increase whale hunting.