Alaska Delegation Fights for Arctic Subsistence Rights

‘It is our Duty to Protect this Traditional Way of Life’

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young recently sent a letter (attached) to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe expressing serious concern over the agency’s upcoming subsistence harvest quota limits. On January 1, 2016, FWS is planning to implement a quota on the subsistence harvest of polar bears from the Chukchi Sea population and intends to enforce this quota through criminal sanctions.

“For thousands of years, Alaska Native subsistence hunters have taken polar bears sustainably for food and for clothing. Today, the life of the indigenous people of northern Alaska still depend on the sustainable subsistence harvest of polar bears and it is our duty to protect this traditional way of life,” the delegation wrote. 

Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan, and Congressman Young are concerned that these quotas will undermine the nutritional and cultural well-being of Alaskans in the Arctic and restrict the ability of those communities to adapt to shifting food supplies as the effects of unpredictable weather patterns continue to be felt at a high degree across the Arctic.

“It is imperative that all such federal decisions be well-grounded in peer-reviewed science and local observation, and that they be made with the full knowledge and participation of local residents,” the delegation wrote. 

In their letter, the delegation recommends that FWS implement a cooperative agreement with the Alaska Nanuuq Commission for the co-management of Chukchi Sea polar bears, similar to the agreement in place for the federal-local co-management of bowhead whales.

The full text of the delegation letter is attached.