The final enforcement outcome was a slap on wrist nine months after a gray whale swam up the Kuskokwim River and was killed. The whale was killed by local hunters after it was discovered swimming in the river near Bethel and was later retrieved and butchered. Those involved received letters from the Federal government explaining that gray whales are protected and that it is illegal to kill one.
Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act Alaska Natives can harvest certain species of whales, but the gray whale is not one of the types that can be harvested for subsistence in Alaska without a quota from the International Whaling Commission.
The letters were sent by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement and its Office of General Counsel in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s office. They outlined the law, the limitations on subsistence whaling, and what is required to hunt and harvest whales. The letter closes the investigation into the gray whale killed last summer on the Kuskokwim River.