Research ship trying to avoid disrupting Alaska Native hunters


October 19, 2017 | View PDF

Scientists using the research vessel Sikuliaq have a new process to avoid disrupting Alaska Native hunters in coastal communities.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences operates the ship, which was designed to work in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions where coastal community residents hunt for whales, seals, walruses and other animals.

Researchers using Sikuliaq and coastal community members will use the new process to discuss research cruise plans and avoid conflicts between scientific research activity and subsistence hunting or other cultural practices. A key goal of the process is to develop cruise strategies that ensure the needs of both Sikuliaq researchers and coastal community members are met.

“Each Arctic research cruise will have different circumstances and require different conversations,” said Brenda Konar, associate dean of research at CFOS. “We designed our standard operating procedures to be flexible to the needs of each research operation, and to grow and adapt as the underlying circumstances change.”

Sikuliaq is the first vessel in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System to adopt such a process. The procedures are based on suggestions from the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee. The committee was created in 2014 “to ensure a safe, efficient and predictable operating environment for all Arctic waterway users.” Its 15 members primarily represent subsistence hunters, companies and municipalities.

“We hope that other research vessel operators will consider using this document to help meet the needs of their research field studies being conducted in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters,” said CFOS Dean Bradley Moran.

Read about the agreement in an article published by the academic journal Marine Policy in September.


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