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Alaska’s Native Whalers Photo: Ravenna Koenig, Alaska’s Energy Desk via NPR
Alaskan Native tribes began their annual bowhead whale hunt over a month ago, but so far in Utqiagvik the whalers have seen no whales — this is unprecedented — last year at this point in the hunt these Alaskans had already landed 20. This was the warmest summer ever and there is less ice offshore according to the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, which many believe is causing the whales to migrate much farther away from shore.
Why This Matters: Because of warmer temperatures in the Arctic, fish that used to remain farther south are moving into the region, with big implications for food security in Alaska and beyond. Native Alaskans, who have been hunting whales using traditional methods for 1,500 years will be severely impacted — they rely on the whales as a major food source, as well as for their cultural heritage. But worse is what it signals for Alaska and other parts of the Arctic, which are changing at a more rapid rate than other areas of the planet. Alaska is “burning, melting and changing in unprecedented ways,” according to a new report, “Alaska’s Changing Environment,” which describes the state’s wildfires, drought, dwindling sea ice, changes in species, and thawing permafrost.
Bowhead Whale Migration
As Inside Climate News explains, bowhead whale populations are relatively robust and their migration route has been observed routinely by scientists and indigenous hunters.
Roughly 17,000 whales migrate west across northern Canada and then along the northern shores of Alaska and then continue westward across the Chukchi Sea to Russia.
The later the whales’ migration occurs, the more difficult it becomes due to the shorter days — in just a few weeks’ time “polar night” begins when the sun does not come up over the horizon for two months.
This year has been very different according to the scientists — “We just haven’t been seeing bowhead whales in October,” said Megan Ferguson, a research biologist with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “It’s the big mystery: where are the bowheads?”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is the global authority when it comes to whether a species is at risk of extinction, yesterday added the North Atlantic Right Whale of the eastern U.S. to its list of Critically Endangered species (elevated from Endangered) that are on the brink of extinction. The IUCN also “upgraded” 13 different species of lemurs to the Critically Endangered list along with 20 other lemur species at risk of imminent extinction.
Why This Matters: These species are on the verge of going extinct not because of anything they did, but rather because of us humans.
We just love a tsunami with a happy ending! The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on St. Simons Island had been rehabilitating Tsunami, an endangered green sea turtle that was hit by a boat in 2017, for years with the hope of setting her free in the ocean. But her injuries were too severe to survive […]
By Will Gartshore, Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It’s an old aphorism that still rings painfully true today. Long before Covid-19, the three deadliest pandemics in human history—the bubonic plague, Spanish influenza and HIV/AIDS—claimed more lives than all the […]
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