Whaling village split on oil tests

Posted: Sunday, June 11, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Kaktovik's Native village corporation has taken a softer stance on regional oil exploration than the village government, which last month called Shell Oil "a hostile and dangerous force" for planning to look for oil in traditional Alaska Native whaling waters.

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A resolution passed last month by the village City Council authorized the mayor to take legal or other actions necessary to "defend the community." Mayor Lon Sonsalla had said Shell failed to address village concerns about migratory bowhead whales being disturbed by the company's seismic testing this summer and whether the company would operate safely in unpredictable sea ice.

But the Kaktovik Inupiat Corp. noted Shell has with the whalers, agreeing to shut down until Kaktovik, Nuiqsuit and Barrow whalers meet their quotas.

Last year Shell leased nearly a half million acres in federal waters of the Beaufort Sea, some near Kaktovik, an Inupiat village of nearly 300 people on the Beaufort coast.

Shell's seismic tests this summer call for using airguns from a ship to send sound pulses through the sea floor. The pulses bounce back up to the ship for an image of rock formations potentially bearing oil and gas.

Shell needs permits for the tests from the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which regulates offshore oil operations, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which manages ocean mammals such as the bowhead whale.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com



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