Chukotkan Autonomous Okrug

Physical geography and climate
Population, economic development and infrastructure
Indigenous land use and dependence on the environment
Environmental threats
Map (1997)
Article collection

Indigenous land use and dependence on the environment

The coastal waters of Chukotka, especially the nutrient-rich waters of the Bering Strait , are the home of marine hunters, both Chukchi and Yupik. The main hunting objects are walrus, seals and whales. Catches in 1990 accounted for 1,800 walruses and 7,650 seals. Most of the meat went to feed fox­es in fur farms during the Soviet era, but in recently privatised hunting brigades, more and more food is used for human consumption. Environmental law that forbids the hunting of walrus on the beaches, results in a loss of  20% of the killed animals (official number), though in reality possibly as high as 80%. Since the purchase of grey whales from Russian whaling boats has become too expensive in the last years, the local population has started to re-adopt traditional whaling methods. Since 1996, the government issued permissions to kill Greenland whales, against the International Whaling Commission, citing equal rights for the natives of Alaska and Chukotka, and to the necessity of this nutritious, vitamin-rich food (much better than that of grey whales).

Reindeer breeding is the economically most important occupation and is carried out across the entire okrug. The herds graze in the open tundra in the summer, and migrate between more sheltered areas in the winter. The domestic reindeer population of Chukotka has been decreasing throughout the 1980s due to infrastructure development and mining (565,000 in 1980 - 499,000 in 1989), and was rapidly decreasing in the 1990s (ca. 340,000 in 1994, 80,000 in 2001) due to high slaughtering rates, wild animal attacks etc., which are a secondary results of the economic disaster, lack of transportation facilities, etc. Nevertheless, reindeer breeding is becoming increasingly important due to the stagnation in food delivery from outside the okrug. By now (early 2006) the population has somewhat recovered and is ca. 156,000, with an increase of almost 25,000 head in 2005.

Fishing, mainly of salmon, is traditionally developed in the Anadyr , Kolyma and Chaun river mouths and coastal areas, with a varying, but generally declining quota. Fishing is both part of the indigenous subsistence and an industrially developed trade for both natives and non-natives.

Hunting on land (wild reindeer, moose, wolverine, brown bear, lynx, mountain sheep, polar fox, birds) is carried out by both reindeer breeders and sea mammal hunters. It is an important factor in the reconstruction of self-sufficiency with regard to supplies of food and winter clothing.

Gathering of berries, herbs, roots and mush­rooms, like in most of the North, has regained an increasing importance during the economic disaster of the 1990s.