Iñupiat Fall Whaling and Climate Change Observations from Cross Island

Iñupiat Fall Whaling and Climate Change Observations from Cross Island

Michael Galginaitis

Iñupiat Fall Whaling and Climate Change Observations from Cross IslandThis is part of Responses of Arctic Marine Ecosystems to Climate Change
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Abstract: Relatively little information exists documenting traditional and historic fall Iñupiat subsistence whaling, other than oral traditional knowledge. More systematic information exists for contemporary fall Iñupiat subsistence whaling, especially conducted near Cross Island by the residents of Nuiqsut. Subsistence whaling from Nuiqsut dates from 1973, when Nuiqsut was resettled. Harvest and some supplemental data are available from 1973 to the present. For 2001–2012, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management sponsored research collecting detailed information, to document annual variability in the conduct of the hunt and factors influencing this variability, with a focus on oil and gas exploration and development activities. Other obvious vectors of variability are weather and ice conditions, access to and use of improved technology, improved logistical support and organization of the hunt, and the goals or desires of the whalers. General commercial vessel traffic is also of concern. Some variability exhibited since 1973 represents directional or long-term change (use of technology, improved logistics) whereas other aspects are not so clearly directional (weather and ice conditions, vessel traffic). Continuing widespread scientific observations, combined with the local observations and concerns of subsistence whalers, suggest that some variability hitherto interpretable as cyclical variation may indicate long-term climate change. The specific questions addressed here are why Nuiqsut whalers whale when they do, and what determines the length of the whaling season, especially as it has changed since 1973 in response to changes in environmental conditions.

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