Tomorrow the residents of Barrow, Alaska, a town on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, will vote for a new mayor. According to at least one report whoever wins will potentially impact the ability of the US to fast track its plans for energy independence through offshore oil drilling.
While both the current mayor, Edward Itta, and his rival and former Mayor, George Ahmaogak, are pro-development and have supported the oil industry, the incumbent Itta is against off-shore drilling.
Mayor Itta claims to be concerned that off-shore drilling will potentially scare away the bowhead whales which are still considered “culturally and nutritionally” important to his community of predominately Alaska Natives.
There is also the issue of whether offshore drilling, as opposed to onshore drilling, will cut his municipality out of a share in the oil revenue. Indeed could the whales be a convenient excuse for keeping oil exploration and revenue in the municipality?
In nearby Canada, hunting of bowhead whales is also still considered culturally important.
In August, The Bowhead Whale Music Festival in Nunavik coincided with the signing of an authorization from Canada’s federal department of fisheries and oceans to kill a single whale.