Spring Whaling Begins In Arctic

Despite the lingering effects of winter, spring whaling has begun in Arctic Alaska and seal hunters are also heading to the coast from Chevak in the Southwest part of the state. Grace Levettte with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission in Barrow confirmed today that whaling crews on St Lawrence Island have landed a total of three bowheads so far – two for Gambell and one for Savoonga.

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Farther south on the mainland, seal hunters from the Cu’pik community of Chevak are hauling their boats to the coast for spring seal hunts. John Atchak lives in Chevak and is a long time hunter. He’s been watching hunters head to favorite coastal spots toward Hopper Bay and Nelson Island.

He says harbor, spotted and bearded seals are an important part of Cu’pik dinners.

“That’s our mainstay diet in our area and it provides a lot of iron for our bodies, required iron, and it’s a real healthy food,” Atchak said.

Atchak says local hunters haul their boats behind snowmachines on homemade wooden sleds, traveling from eight to 30 miles. He says crews with at least 10 boats have left over the past two days. Sometime in May, when they see the right signs, they will hunt belugas.

“When the herring arrive, that’s when the beluga arrive, along with the fish,” Atchak said.

Atchak says they will hunt until mid May.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori