In April 1994, an amendment to the Marine
Mammals Protection Act included provisions for the development of
cooperative agreements between USFWS and Alaska Native organizations
to conserve marine mammals and provide for the co-management of subsistence
use by Alaska Natives. Section 119 of the MMPA amendments authorized
the appropriation of funds to the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary
of Commerce to implement co-management activities in Alaska. The Indigenous
People's Council for Marine Mammals (IPCOMM), U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resource Division, National
Marine Fisheries Service, and FWS have developed a Memorandum of
Agreement to provide the foundation and direction for the use of co-management
funds provided under Section 119 of the MMPA.
To facilitate co-management activities, cooperative agreements were
completed by USFWS, the Alaska Nanuuq Commission (ANC) and the Eskimo Walrus Commission
(EWC). The cooperative agreements funded a wide variety of management
- commission co-management operations
- biological sampling programs
- harvest monitoring
- collection of Native knowledge in management
- international coordination on management issues
- cooperative enforcement of the MMPA
- development of local conservation plans.
To help realize our mutual management goals, ANC,
EWC, IPCOMM, and USFWS regularly hold workshops to discuss future expectations
and outline a shared vision of co-management.
Successful results of co-management agreements
Sea Otter Biological Monitoring Program: obtains biological
information on life history, exposure to environmental contaminants
and population health using information provided by coastal Native communities.
Many Native people from around the state have been trained in general
necropsy and tissue collection procedures for subsistence hunted sea
Polar Bear Traditional Ecological Knowledge: collects knowledge
from Alaska Natives regarding polar bear habitat use in the Beaufort,
Chukchi and Bering Seas and adjacent Alaska coastline. This is a significant
contribution to our understanding of polar bears and other species and
their habitats. Traditional Native knowledge is helpful when formulating
a conservation strategy. This program is currently being expanded into
Walrus Harvest Monitoring: USFWS and EWC monitor the subsistence
harvest of walrus in the Native villages of Gambell and Savoonga Savoonga. USFWS technicians and village residents work together and
collect information on the size and demographics of the spring harvest
by conducting hunter interviews and obtaining biological samples. Walrus
harvest monitoring is also being expanded to include Russian Native
Benefits of Co-management
Co-management provides opportunities for equal participation
in the management of marine mammal resources.
Co-management projects have:
- prompted environmental education and marine mammal conservation
in Alaska Native communities, and
- promoted the education of people outside the Native communities
in the traditional ecological knowledge of marine mammals.