Urgent appeal for assistence: Chukotka

April 2000


(Summary of article by Tom Mexsis Happynook, Chairman, World Council of Whalers, internet website http://www.worldcouncilofwhalers.com/WCWNews/WCWnews16.html )

The situation facing the indigenous Yupik and Chukchi peoples of Russia's far northeastern tip is dire. With the break-up of the Soviet Union ca-me the collapse of the state-sponsored economic systems and infrastructure upon which the native peoples of Chukotka endured a forced dependence.

Reviving traditional subsistence activities, Yupik and Chukchi peoples are taking to the sea in traditional skin boats in pursuit of gray and bowhead whales, walrus, and seal.* Traditional foods are being made available to villages residents and those who through decades of forced relocation, reside in decaying urban centers. Traditional village sites, abandoned after relocation, are once again coming to life. Ancient and essential socio-economic ties are reemerging with the inland peoples.

However, the sea mammal hunting equipment is outdated and in a poor state of repair. Equipping the hunting crews of Chukotka with basic equipment is essential to the safe, successful, and humane harvest of whales, walrus and seals. Such items include: binoculars for spotting whales; pneumatic floats to ensure that whales are not lost; lines for towing the gray and bowhead whales to shore; and wet weather gear so that butchering may be done in the water, minimizing the risk of contaminating the meat.

The WCW has been working with organisations in Alaska and the Chukotkan region to establish reliable lines of supply, to ensure that any and all assistance will reach those communities in need, intact. For more information, contact the WCW Secretariat.

* The International Whaling Commission permits subsistence whaling by some aboriginal groups. These are limited by quotas for each species. In 1998, 122 gray whales were taken by Chukotkan natives, out of a IWC quota of 132. One bowhead out of a quota of 5 was taken that year. The IWC does not concern itself with sea mammals other than cetaceans.

--The Editor