~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ J. Michael Williamson Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu> Associate Professor-Science Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215 voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256 fax: 617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073 "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 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org 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 species. 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 Strait. 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 50,000. 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 planned. 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 commission. 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 Society. 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.