|A gray whale illegally harpooned off by the Makah tribe in Washington|
Do the Chukotka people really each eat 419 pounds of gray whale each year? That’s what the Russian government is asking the world to believe as it asks the International Whaling Commission to extend its absurd “subsistence” quota of 140 gray whales for the Chukotka people.
They’re the ones Sarah Palin can see from her house; Chukotka is a peninsula of Russia on the Bering Sea. Only one-third of the tiny population of Chukotka (53,000) is native. That means 18,000 people are supposed to be eating 140 whales that each weigh 27,6,00 to 36,000 kg (59,000 to 79,000 pounds). That amounts to a stunning 466 pounds of whale per person.
What about bones? Ok, soft tissue makes up 90% of a whale’s weight. That’s still an amazing 419 pounds per native person. Could anyone eat 18 ounces of whale every single day, all year? Absurd. By contrast, Americans–not known for our tiny appetites–eat 222 pounds of meat a year, up from 144 in 1950.
A while back the Chukotka were caught using their sustenance meat to feed fox on fur farms–which still managed to be unprofitable. A gray whale with a Russian harpoon washed up in California in March. Russia is required to report whales that get away, but never mentioned this one. Gray whale meat with evidence of harpoons has shown up in Japanese markets, according to Oregon State University.
In June The International Whaling Commission, which wants to legalize whale hunting again, is set to consider a proposal to allow the 140 whale a year habit to continue for a decade. Russia has even argued that they would really like 350 whales–even though they are now eating more whale than ever. Whale used to account for 50% of their meat in 1985; now it’s 90%.
The eastern gray whale population is about 26,000; this is the one that migrates to Chukotka. No one thinks they mix with the western population, which is only about 130–even though no one is supposed to be hunting it–and lives in an area where it’s disturbed by Russian oil drilling. Now California whale watchers are saying that their whales may not be as secure; numbers are mysteriously dropping. Could it have anything to do with where they spend the winter?
About 10% of gray whales are what biologists call “stinky.” Stinky whales are inedible. Dogs won’t even eat them and if you do eat them, you’ll get sick. V. Ilyashenko writes:
hunters state that sometimes they can identify “stinky” whales in the ocean, if the wind blows from the spout toward the whaling boat. In some hunting areas, the hunters have estimated that up to ten percent of the whales are “stinky” in a given year. Skilled hunters do not attempt to kill “stinky whales”. Nevertheless, several “stinky whales” are struck and landed in most years. In some years up to 10 “stinky” whales were harvested. Sometimes the “stinky” whale odor appears only during cutting up the whale or only while cooking whale meat.
Stinky whales have been noticed since the 60s and it’s no surprise that their numbers are increasing. They’re evolving a defense mechanism. The stinkier they are, the safer they are from whalers. If they can pass on their propensity to stinkiness, they’re really have something. The stinky factor alone should push the IWC to make the Russians find another food source.
In other gray whale news, Lilly, a gray whale freed from fishing lines in Dana Point, still lingers and looks sickly