On the north shore of Alaska, bowhead whales, native communities and oil & gas developers are learning to live together. This fall, Battelle is hosting a scientific meeting to examine the implications of research in bowhead whale genomics for both industry and indigenous communities.
Bowhead whales are important to native Alaskan Eskimo communities for both subsistence and ceremonial purposes. They are also protected by national and international conservation laws. Oil & gas developers operating in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas must understand bowhead whale populations and migration patterns so that their activities do not negatively impact either whale populations or the Eskimo hunts, both of which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Genomic research conducted on behalf of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission can help the oil and gas community understand the risks of different activities and make better decisions to balance environmental and development priorities.
Battelle and the North Slope Borough are sponsoring a symposium on Bowhead Whale Genomics to be held at Battelle’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 14-15. During the meeting, researchers will present the latest data on the Beaufort Sea bowhead whale populations and facilitate dialogue among scientists, industry leaders, whaling captains and other stakeholders. Sessions will focus on what has been done in the past, what is being done presently and what should be done with the bowhead whale genetics program in the future. The goal of the meeting is to help the North Slope Borough and the Department of Wildlife Management decide how to use genetics in their research and monitoring programs.
On day one, a representative of the North Slope Borough will discuss the importance of bowhead whales in Eskimo culture. On day two, Hans Thewissen, author of The Walking Whales, will share his insights on the evolutionary history of whales.