The Arctic Sounder

Several people testify against caribou hunting restrictions on federal lands in Northwest Alaska

Several people spoke up last week about a proposal to reduce the bag limit for Western Arctic Caribou on federal lands.

The Federal Subsistence Board held a public listening session last week about proposals to reduce caribou harvest limits from five caribou a day to four caribou per year, with only one which may be a cow. The proposal aims to protect the declining Western Arctic Caribou Herd.

About five people called in the listening session to testify.

Susan Mekiana-Morry from Anaktuvuk Pass was among the callers and spoke against the proposal. Mekiana-Morry said she is aware of the declining numbers of caribou. Still, she said the proposal to reduce limits did not take into consideration how much Anaktuvuk Pass residents have been struggling to harvest animals they survive on, in an isolated village where food costs two or three times higher than in the city.

“There’s barely even anything on the shelves to provide meals. We are really dependent on that caribou,” she said. “Our village is about 380 people and every child, every family, every household — they know what caribou is: It is the main food source.

“This really hurts me to know that it’s a proposal to reduce caribou to four a year,” she said.

In January, the Alaska Board of Game adopted similar proposals with modifications. Specifically, the board game changed the resident bag limit to 15 caribou per year only one which may be a cow. They also excluded the Western portion of Unit 26 from the harvest limit reduction.


Jacob Ivanoff, a Unalakleet resident who sometimes travels to hunt in Unit 23, said he would like to amend the federal proposal to also allow 15 caribou per year for every unit.

“I don’t necessarily feel that it’s fair to reduce the limit to four a year,” he said. “I feel that everybody should be allowed to harvest the same amount because we all depend on it.”

Other suggestions expressed during the meeting included a suggestion to study more closely the reasons that are leading to a drop in the caribou population.

The chairman of the Northwest Arctic Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Michael Kramer reminded residents that the proposed new bag limit would be per person, not per household.

“You’re still going to be allowed to get a lot of caribou,” he said.

The Federal Subsistence Management Program will hold a joint meeting of all regional advisory councils on March 5-8, at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage and via teleconference. Northwest Arctic and North Slope councils will have their discussions about reducing caribou harvest on March 7 and 8.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.