Investigation closes on Kuskokwim gray whale killing

The whale killed in the Kuskokwim River on Thursday night is butchered and the meat and blubber distributed to people up and down the river. (Photo by Katie Basile / KYUK)

The whale killed in the Kuskokwim River last summer is butchered and the meat and blubber distributed to people up and down the river. (Photo by Katie Basile / KYUK)

A letter closes the investigation into the gray whale killed last summer on the Kuskokwim River.

The final enforcement outcome was a slap on the wrist nine months after the whale swam up the river.

Local hunters discovered the whale swimming in the river near Bethel and killed it. The animal 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.

Alaska Natives can harvest certain species of whales under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The gray whale cannot 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.

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