Hunter Tagging of Beluga Whales in Alaska

Trainers Lori Quakenbush
Collaborators ABWC, Bristol Bay Native Association and BBNA Marine Mammal Council, ADF&G (Dillingham), Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, Robert Suydam, Kathy Frost, Lloyd Lowry
Participants Ben Tinker, Tom Olson, Albert “Alby” Roehl, Patrick “Cody”Aloysius, Curtis Ayuluk, Wassily “Blackie” Kayakwok, Tom Gray, Frank Kavairlook, Marvin Okiktun


Train beluga hunters from Norton Sound and Y-K Delta areas to safely capture, handle, tag, and release beluga whales during a tagging workshop in Bristol Bay.


Two belugas were captured and tagged in Bristol Bay to train hunters from Norton Sound to tag belugas if they are found alive in their subsistence nets. The belugas tagged for training will help us learn more about movements in Bristol Bay. Photos below courtesy of Lori Quakenbush, ADFG.

Ben Tinker, captain from Aleknagik, and crew Patrick

Preparing the beluga net for captures during tagger training. Norton Sound hunters working with Bristol Bay hunters during beluga tagging training in Bristol Bay, 2011

Tom Gray attaching tag during tagger training in Bristol Bay

Group photo of 2011 training in Bristol Bay. Long time tagging crew captain, Ben Tinker, is sitting in the back of the boat

Albert Simon from Hooper Bay working with Ben Tinker, Fred Bartman, and Lori Quakenbush in Bristol Bay in 2006 to tag belugas in fall for winter movement studies

Achievements 2011:

Tom Gray of Nome, Frank Kavairlook of Koyuk, and Marvin Okitktun of Kotlik were added to our research permit as beluga taggers for ABWC. Tagging kits were sent to each of them this fall so they would be prepared to tag if a live beluga was captured in a net during their hunting efforts.

Achievements 2012:

Tom Gray tagged two belugas from the Eastern Bering Stock in Norton Sound and Albert Simon tagged one beluga from the Eastern Bering Stock in Hooper Bay. Albert has worked with ABWC on tagging projects since 2005.

Achievements 2016:

Tom Gray tagged an adult female beluga from the eastern Bering Sea stock in Norton Sound in November 2016. The tag was still transmitting on October 2017. In fall 2017, Tom will be conducting tagger training for other beluga hunters in Norton Sound.

Point Lay Tagger Training 2017:

In June 2017, Buckland beluga hunter Raymond Lee traveled to Point Lay where he received tagger training from Lori Quakenbush and Robert Suydam. Raymond participated in the tagging of three belugas. Now he hopes to catch and tag a beluga in Kotzebue Sound.

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