The AEWC serves as an integral part of the United States’ efforts to carry out its responsibilities as a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The IWC requires detailed harvest-related information, information on management responses to possible infractions, regular updates on subsistence need for bowhead whales, presentations on annual harvest reports, presentations with scientific evidence of population size, catch and population structure of the bowhead whale, presentations on weapons improvement work, and a presentation on progress toward improvements in the humaneness of the hunt.

The U.S. Delegation to the IWC relies on the AEWC for advice on U.S. strategy, preparation of documents required by the IWC, reporting of hunting information and results required by the IWC, and cooperation and support in scientific research on the biology of the bowhead whale, as required by the IWC.

 The IWC sets quotas on whale stocks, not by country or hunting region. Aboriginal subsistence quotas are set by the IWC only upon a demonstration of biological sustainability and subsistence need. Prior to 1997, only Alaska’s AEWC hunters had documented their subsistence needs for bowhead whales, and thus were the only hunters allowed to hunt under the IWC’s bowhead whale subsistence quota. In 1997, Russian subsistence hunters obtained the right to hunt whales from the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas (BCBS). That year, the U.S. (through NOAA) and Russia entered into a bi-lateral agreement for sharing of the bowhead whale quota; a companion bi-lateral quota allocation and management agreement was entered into between the AEWC and the Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka (ATMMHC) at the same time.

The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commissions' harvest quota is determined by the International Whaling Commission every six years. The harvest quota is based upon the following:

  1. The nutritional and cultural needs of Alaskan Eskimos and Eskimo and Chuckchi people of Chukotka
  2. Estimates of the size and rate of growth of the bowhead whale population

AEWC Bowhead Block Quota for 2013-2018
AEWC's Block Quota for 2013-2017 was reviewed at the 2012 IWC meeting in Panama City, Panama, and was renewed. Since the IWC decided to change their Commission meetings to every other year instead of annually, the quota was approved for the years 2013 through 2018, allowing Alaskan and Chukotkan whalers to land up to 336 whales over the next six years. This provides for the same annual limits and carryovers as have been in place for the last 15 years, including the 2008-2012 quota outlined below. The AEWC and NSB released a joint statement to the press on July 3, 2012. Additionally, a statement was made at the 2012 IWC Commission meetings by AEWC Chairman, George Noongwook of Savoonga.

AEWC Bowhead Block Quota for 2008-2012

  • The 5-year harvest quota is 280 whales landed or 335 strikes. Cannot exceed 67 strikes in any one year, although 15 unused strikes can be transferred from previous years.
  • Harvest is approximately 0.1-0.5% of population.
  • Cannot harvest cows with calves.

Quota reviewed annually by IWC Scientific Committee and NOAA-NMFS AEWC is allowed to hunt under the IWC's Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling provision. Allocation by the AEWC of the IWC block quota for 2008 to 2012 per village:

Barrow, 22 (increased to 25 in 2014)
Gambell, 8
Kaktovik, 3
Kivalina, 4
Little Diomede, 2
Nuiqsut, 4
Point Hope, 10
Point Lay, 1 (increased to 2 in 2014)
Savoonga, 8
Wainwright, 7
Wales, 2

Whaling Provision: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling Quotas Petition by the Department of Commerce, NOAA, in the Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 81, April 25, 2008. This document outlines the quota assigned to the AEWC for bowhead whales for 2008 to 2012.