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 and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at ltownsend@alaskapublic.org or call 907-350-2058.

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