North Slope Finding Some Success in Fall Whaling Season

North Slope communities are having some success with fall whaling.

Johnnie Aiken is the executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission in Barrow. Aiken says Barrow crews have landed two whales so far this fall.

“The crews that are out boating have not been seeing as many whales as they used to this time of the year. What we heard was the whales were still hanging around the Prudhoe bay area off Milne point,” Aiken said.

But the villages of Kaktovik and Nuiqsuit are having better luck.

“Kaktovik landed all their whales, all three of them. Also Nuiqsut also landed three whales so those two villages have been very successful,” Aiken said.

AEWC has 11 member villages that share 72 to 75 strikes each year between spring and fall whaling season. Nuiqsuit can take up to four whales, but Aiken says the three they landed this year were large, all three averaged 50 feet, which translates into around 50 tons each. Nuiqsuit gave their fourth strike back to AEWC for another village to use.

Aiken says the weather has been rough, making it difficult for Barrow crews to get out. He says the lack of fall ice makes it more dangerous.

“We have not seen any ice in the fall for 10 years. In the past we used to have ice, it was good to have ice because it kept the seas calm. Now that we don’t have ice, it’s been pretty rough out there,” Aiken said.

Aiken says Wainwright and Point Lay whalers have been out but have not had success so far this fall.

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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 24 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. 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