Twice as many bowhead whales have been found as the International Whaling Commission believed existed when it set the first quota on whale-hunting by Eskimos.
Alaska Gov. Jay Hammond said yesterday the count by federal biologists shows Eskimos were right when they contended the IWC was underestimating the bowhead population.
The commission, fearing the massive bowhead was nearing extinction, last year had ordered a halt to all subsistence hunting of bowheads beginning this spring. It later allowed a quota of 12 whales - roughly a third of the kill in recent years. Commercial hunting was outlawed more than 40 years ago. Eskimos contended, however, whales were an irreplaceable part of their diet, and whale hunts were essential to their culture.
Last year the IWC said the bowhead population probably ranged from 800 to 1,200 with 1,000 the most likely figure. Bill Marquette, in charge of the whale-counting camps in Barrow, said statistical analysis indicated 2,264 whales had passed the counting stations on the Arctic Ocean ice. More than 1,700 whales were actually seen.
Eskimo leader Eben Hobson said at the very least, the IWC should increase the quota in time for the fall hunt. This spring 10 whales were taken leaving only two more whales under the present quota.