Alaska and Inuvialuit Beluga Whale Committee (AIBWC) - An Initiative in "At Home Management"
The Alaska and Inuvialuit Beluga Whale Committee (AIBWC) was formed in 1988 to facilitate and promote the wise conservation, management and utilization of beluga whales in Alaska and the western Canadian Arctic. The membership of the committee consists of representatives from coastal beluga whale hunting regions and communities in Alaska and the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada, U.S. federal, state and local government agencies, and others, such as researchers and technical advisors. Only representatives from beluga whale hunting communities vote on matters related to hunting, while the committee as a whole votes on other issues. Harvest monitoring programs are planned and coordinated at the spring meeting, implemented during the whaling season by hunters and others and reported upon during the fall meeting. To date, the AIBWC has 1) established beluga whale research priorities, 2) coordinated or assisted with the collection of samples for genetic, contaminant and basic biological studies, 3) provided funding for DNA studies, 4) commented on federal actions (e.g., relating to oil and gas exploration activity) with the potential to affect beluga whales, beluga habitat or beluga hunting, 5) collected the most complete harvest data ever available for Alaska, 6) produced a newsletter highlighting important marine mammal issues for coastal residents of Alaska, and 7) sponsored the attendance of committee members at meetings of the International Whaling Commission. The AIBWC recently ratified its draft Alaska beluga whale management plan, a counterpart to the existing plan for beluga whale management in the western Canadian Arctic, and has initiated discussions on a joint Inupiat-Inuvialuit plan for management of the shared Beaufort Sea beluga whale stock.
Key words: beluga whale, Beaufort Sea, Bering Sea, management, subsistence harvest, Inuvialuit, Inupiat