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Video: Locals Kill Whale in Kuskokwim River

Courtesy of Paul Smith II

A video posted on Facebook Thursday night shows locals shooting a whale in the Kuskokwim River near Napaskiak. The video may be disturbing for some viewers.


Whales rarely swim this far upstream - about 60 miles - and are protected under federal law and international treaty. Local Yup'ik communities rely on subsistence fishing and hunting for food, but locals had little experience hunting an animal this big. The legal implications of this event are not yet known.">Kuskokwim Whale from">KYUK on Vimeo.

Men and women surrounded the whale with 30 to 40 boats and struggled to kill it using guns, seal harpoons, and whatever they had on hand. It took them around 90 minutes to kill the whale, but its carcass was too heavy to drag to land and sank.

Villagers are currently working to salvage the whale’s meat and pull it to shore. According to a local elder, the butchered whale could feed the entire community.

This video content was taken with permission from the Facebook page of Paul Smith II. It originally appeared on Facebook as multiple videos that were edited together by KYUK.

Correction: A previous version incorrectly stated the number of miles the whale swam upriver. The correct length is about 60 miles.

Anna Rose MacArthur served as KYUK's News Director from 2015-2022.