The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has primary responsibility within the United States Government for the management and enforcement of programs concerning bowhead whales. The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC) is an Alaska Native hunter-driven organization, established in 1977 for the purpose of providing local management of the bowhead whale subsistence hunt. Since 1981, the AEWC has successfully carried out federal management and enforcement responsibilities pertaining to the bowhead whale subsistence harvest under the authority delegated through the NOAA-AEWC Cooperative Agreement. This includes ongoing compliance with provisions of the Whaling Convention Act, as it relates to aboriginal subsistence whaling; of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, 1946; and of regulations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
In addition to management of the bowhead whale subsistence harvest, the federal responsibilities outlined in the Cooperative Agreement include adhering to regulations and requirements placed on the subsistence hunt by the IWC. Critical to the understanding of the AEWC objectives is an understanding that co-management of the subsistence hunt through the Cooperative Agreement is directly tied to the federal government’s international obligations to the IWC. The AEWC is the only Alaska Native Organization (ANO) that is required by the U.S. Government to answer to an international forum that has the power to regulate and even, as has occurred previously, shut down the subsistence hunt.