Traditional Knowledge of the Ecology of Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in the Northern Bering Sea, Chukotka, Russia

By Nikolaii Mymrin, the communities of Novoe Chaplino, Sireniki, Uelen, and Yanrakinnot, and Henry P. Huntington

Vol. 52, No. 1 (March 1999) p. 62–70, Arctic

The first systematic effort to document traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Russia was conducted in the villages of Sireniki, Novoe Chaplino, Yanrakinnot, and Uelen, in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The findings describe migratory and local movements, feeding, calving, ecological interactions, and human influences on distribution and behavior. The results add considerable detail to published accounts of belugas in Russian waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Among these are descriptions of avoidance and habituation responses to anthropogenic noise, which appear to depend in part on association with hunting activities. The authors observe that most of the TEK documented in this study came from older hunters, and that the collective pool of traditional knowledge in the region is disappearing.

Key words:
beluga whales, white whales, Delphinapterus leucas, BeringSea, Chukchi Sea, Chukotka, ecology, traditional ecological knowledge, TEK


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