BARROW - The International Whaling Commission will conduct a special meeting this fall to discuss reinstatement of the bowhead quota for Alaska Eskimo whalers, according to the president of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association.
"The IWC is planning to reconvene in October or November to hold an intercessional meeting to try and re-establish the quota," Eugene Brower told the Arctic Sounder.
The commission rejected Eskimo whaling at its annual meeting in May. Maneuvering led by Japan blocked approval after the United States, Britain and other nations rejected Tokyo-led attempts to lift the IWC's commercial whaling ban.
Since the quota was rejected, the United States has explored the options of holding the intercessional meeting or putting Alaska whaling under domestic management.
Brower said the treaty that formed the International Whaling Commission still allowed Eskimos to hunt bowheads. Only the quota for the hunt had not passed, he said.
"The United States does not intend to bring up the quota unless we have a consensus," Brower said.
"If that happens then the oversight of our whaling will be transferred from the Department to Commerce to the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs," Brower said. "There are a number of captains who support putting whaling under domestic control even if the commission were to pass a quota."
Alaska whalers who attended the IWC meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan, developed some sympathy for Japan's coastal villages who were seeking a minke whale quota.
"They have the same whaling tradition as us, going back thousands of years," Brower said. "If it wasn't for whaling, some of these isolated coastal villages would have had a much harder time after World War II. Most people don't know about this tradition."
Brower said that the minke population is healthy, even overpopulated, and could withstand a 50-whale annual quota.
"The problem is, Japan hasn't been entirely forthcoming in the past, and we don't want to see big commercial whaling factory boats again," he said.
According to Brower and other representatives of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, the Japanese have been harvesting minke whales under the guise of scientific research, then selling the whale products commercially, in violation of the treaty. Brower said he was at a restaurant in Shimonoseki that dealt only in foods taken from the whale.