A beluga whale was harvested Sunday evening near Dillingham. It was the whole hunting party’s first time to take a beluga.
On a warm Sunday night beluga blood mixed with water on the boat ramp by the Dillingham City Dock. Seagulls swooped nearby. A crowd hovered around Cade and Darryl Woods of Dillingham and Rebecca Ozenna of Little Diomede as they cut the edible skin and blubber.
The community showed up in force. Lines of cars brought people with their totes and trash bags. The successful hunters shared meat with everyone who came. It took about two hours to process the animal.
It was the whole hunting party’s first time to take a beluga. The three were commercial fishing for silver salmon when they saw a pod of belugas.
“We noticed one was nosing up to the beach and trying to get salmon, so we went up right to it and fired one shot, missed and got it with the next one,” said Cade Woods.
In Little Diomede, more than 500 miles away, Ozenna’s family celebrated the catch with a traditional dance.
“Right after we landed the beluga, I called home,” she said. “I asked them to announce it so they could celebrate for us because usually when they land whales they have a really big Eskimo dance celebration and other people from different villages come in and Eskimo dance and celebrate and feast. I’m really happy they are celebrating for us.”
In Bristol Bay, an average of 23 belugas are reported harvested each year. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the population of belugas in the bay is stable and that number is well within a sustainable harvest size.
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