Subsistence harvest of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) by Alaskan Natives during 2021
Kayla Scheimreif, John Citta, Raphaela Stimmelmayr, Todd L. Sformo, Frances Olemaun, Perry Anashugak, Andrew L. VonDuyke, Rita Acker, Brian T. Person, Leandra Sousa, Larae Agnasagga, Carla SimsKayotuk et al.
In 2021, 70 bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) were struck during the Alaskan subsistence hunt, of which 57 were landed. The total number of whales struck and the number landed in 2021 was higher than the averages for the previous 10 years (2011-2020: mean struck = 56.7, SD = 10.5 and mean landed = 44.3, SD = 8; respectively). The efficiency (# landed / # struck) of the hunt (81%) in 2021 was slightly higher than over the past 10 years (2011-2020: mean of efficiency = 78%; SD = 5.4). Spring hunts are logistically more difficult than autumn hunts because of difficulty in accessing open water, and changing sea ice thickness and dynamics. The hunting efficiency during spring is usually lower than in autumn, which was the case during 2021. In 2021, the efficiency of the spring hunt (77%) was higher than the previous 10-yr average (2011-2020; mean spring efficiency = 70%; SD = 10) but lower than the 2021 autumn hunt (87%). The efficiency of the 2021 autumn hunt (87%) was lower than the average autumn hunting efficiency over the past ten years (2011-2020; mean autumn efficiency = 92%; SD = 9). Thirteen whales were struck and lost in 2021. Of those 13 whales, four were lost due to equipment malfunction (i.e., harpoon failure), six whales were lost when they swam under the ice, four whales sank, and three whales were lost for other or unknown reasons. Additionally, some whales had more than one reason attributed to their loss. Of the harvested whales, 27 were females and 30 were males. Based on total length (?13.7 m in length), seven of the females were presumed mature. One whale was pregnant with a midterm male fetus which was 1.7 m long.