"It is more than a right--it is an absolute necessity which affects every facet of their well-being," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Monday at the opening of the 76-nation commission's four-day meeting. "To deny this history would jeopardize their way of life."
Harvesting whales is considered a sacred accomplishment by many of an estimated 5,000 Eskimos who rely heavily on the meat to fill their tables. Ceremonial dances are held to bless the hunts, and successful harvests prompt village celebrations at which the meat is cut up and distributed.
Despite concerns some countries would block the request to take 51 bowheads a year from 2008 to 2012, the proposal passed by consensus after commissioners from several countries voiced support.