The following cultures are reported to have consumed or hunted whale (unspecified species): Puget Sound Indigenous People, Quileute, Salish, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) (including Moachat, Ahousat, and Clayoquot), Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Haida, Kyuquot, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Dene, Yupik (including those from Indian Point, Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Nunivak Island), Inupiat (including from Nuiqsut, Wainwright, Point Hope), Aleut, Eyak, Koryak, Nentsy, Coast Lapps, Chukchi, Inuvialuit, Inuit (including Central and those from Keewatin, Iglulik, Hudson Bay, Baffin Island, Labrador, Greenland), Beothuk, Micmac (Mi'kmaq), Montagnais (Innu), Passamaquoddy. Although it has been documented that some Tlingit enjoyed consuming whale, most did not, unless it was the only food available . Some Tlingit that did enjoy whale meat were the Yakutat and Killisnoo, as well as those to the north . For the Northern and Central Nootka it is thought that whale hunting began at the ancient communities of “Tsaxsis” on Nootka Island and “Tateu” outside of Esperanza Inlet [1-50]. As more non-Indigenous People arrived, whale hunting increased and the availability of whales decreased for indigenous cultures including Inuit of Cumberland Sound, Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay and Greenland. Greenlanders began to participate in “white man’s” whaling in exchange for meat and blubber [24, 49].
Whale hunting took place at various times of year depending on region and season. Northern and Central Nootka are reported to have hunted whale spring and summer. They also took advantage of whales that occasionally drifted ashore, usually during winter [3, 25]. Cultures of Northern Alaska began whale hunting when the mammals migrated in August . Nuiqsut hunting began mid-September ; however it is reported that Northwest Alaskan Inupiat hunted from April to July . Labrador Inuit hunted in November  and Micmac hunting occurred May to September .
The Nootka hunted whales in open water . Hunting tools used by the Nootka included a harpoon of iron and deer antler (that only a select few hunters were allowed to use), deer tendon lines, inflated sealskins, and spears made of bone or wood [3, 25, 27]. Whale hunting crews included many men who were led by the highest standing individual, usually the chief. Harpooning was performed mainly by the chief [27, 30], and it was forbidden for anyone to strike the whale before he had killed it . Other boats that joined the hunt were most often led by younger relatives of the chief, including a smaller, faster boat that brought the chief to the community to announce when a whale had been killed. Whaling canoes were always carried to the water and never pulled along the ground. The hunting crew arrived at camp the evening before the hunt to prepare, with whaling beginning at dawn.
Among northwest coast cultures, the whaling harpoon was often different from others: it was made with great precision and specificity and had four floats made of sealskin attached to a tendon-line . A small and fast canoe normally used for seal hunting was sometimes brought to bring the shaft of the harpoon that first struck the whale back to the community as evidence of the killed animal. Some whale hunters dipped their weapon into a toxic aconite mixture, or poured the mixture into the water at the opening of a bay. These hunters did not use a harpoon to hunt whales, but instead used a spear with a tip that broke off and remained in the whale’s flesh . Among northern cultures, whale hunting was mostly men’s work, but men and women worked together to bring the whole carcass back to the community . Women cut up pieces of meat and carried them in their hands, while men either lugged or carried larger pieces on their shoulders. Whale meat was divided within the community . For example, among inhabitants of the Diomede Islands, when a whale was struck, everyone in the community raced to the kill to obtain a piece and mostly every member of the community obtained a portion of the whale. The first arrival received a portion of the back, the second received the stomach area, the third received one side, and the fourth received the other side. Butchering of a whale was done by every member of the northwestern Alaska community . The baleen belonged to those who were part of the hunt, but the rest of the whale was available to everyone, and they could take as much as they were able to [14, 49].
Northwest Alaskan Inupiat used a harpoon with an inflated sealskin attached  or used a trapping net . Among Alaskan cultures, once whales returned in August, hunters stayed by the shore with their hunting skin boats day and night .
The Kwakiutl [16, 17], Tlingit , Eyak , Nunivak Island Yupik, Aleut, Koryak and Nentsy  did not actively hunt whales, but would consume them if a carcass washed ashore. Kwakiutl on the west coast of Vancouver Island, however, are reported to have hunted whale . The Coast Lapps consumed carcasses washed ashore, but also scared the animal into shallow water to be killed .
When in shallow water, Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit hunted whales by forcing them into shallower water where they were lanced. Air was then blown between the blubber and meat via a tube made of wood. In deeper water, the whale was struck using a harpoon or spear with a line attached .
Inuit are reported to have used a simple harpoon with a head that remained in the whale, a line connected to the head, and floats and anchors made of wood and sealskin or deerskin attached. They also used the “umiak”, “baydara” boat, skin boat or kayak. Hunting crews were made up of men, but at times paddling was women’s responsibility.
[11, 23, 31, 38, 49].
The Beothuk used a simple harpoon . The Richibucto Micmac harpooned whales from their boats or found them beached along the shore . The Passamaquoddy lured whales from their canoes into shallower water to be killed .
Whale blubber and the derived oil were important to many cultures. Nootka considered whale blubber a delicacy, and boiled it in a wooden dish with water and hot stones . They are also reported to have cooked blubber by broiling it on a piece of wood beside a fire . Nootka, Quileute and Kyuquot used whale oil as a dipping sauce for other foods [3, 28, 29, 42]. The Tlingit, however, are reported to have refused to consume whale fat . Some Indigenous Peoples of the Alaskan north coast considered the skin a delicacy but not the blubber . Some Inuit ate the black skin of a whale first, either cooked or raw, as well as a dish with equal parts skin and blubber cooked and conserved in mustard . The Eyak sometimes bought whale oil from other cultures .
The Nootka and Quileute usually consumed whale meat cold . Nootka never dried the meat . They presented the best and largest portion of whale meat to their chief and the rest went to community members ; however a feast was hosted by those that received the largest portions of meat.
The Kwakiutl had specific practices surrounding the preparation of a dead whale . When a hunter found a whale carcass, he announced to his village while standing on the bow of his hunting boat, that there would be a whale feast, and named his daughter “Place-of-cutting-blubber”. The entire village canoed to the animal in the morning, with the whale-finder in the lead, and the women steering the boats. While standing behind the neck of the whale, and beside the “Place-of-cutting-blubber”, the father of the whale-finder would first announce to the chief to take the dorsal fin. The chief made the first cut of blubber at the neck, then the man in second position, and so on, until each member received a similarly sized portion of blubber. Then the women would cut off all inside fat. At home, the blubber was cut up, boiled in a kettle, and the oil was collected. The boiled blubber was tied to pieces of cedar bark, and its name changed to “tied in the middle”. These pieces were hung over the fire to dry for a month. When eaten, they would be put back into boiling water to be tenderized and consumed warm. The tail blubber was stretched and boiled while fresh, then eaten hot. The blubber from the dorsal fin was not stretched, but boiled right away, the water poured off, and the fin was left to shrivel and cool- it did not get tough when cold, as other parts do.
Among the Kyuquot, beached whales were considered to belong to the chief and he allocated the meat according to tribal hierarchy .
After a successful whale hunt, Baffin Island and Hudson Bay Inuit held a feast, with everyone in a circle, the skin and meat piled in the center, and “Angakoks” (shamen) danced around the pile while women sang songs .
Uses other than food
Puget Sound Indigenous People used whale bone to make club-like weapons and cod fishing hooks, and whale tendon to make thread . The Nootka used whale bone to make a “bark beater”, and whale tendon to make fishing line . The Nootka and Quileute used the tendon to make rope, the intestines and stomach to make oil containers , and whale tooth and tendon to make fishing hooks . The Tlingit used whale rib to make both clubbed and pointed weapons .
Northwest Alaskan Inupiat attached whale bone weights to trapping nets to keep them set under water and used jawbones and ribs as building materials . The Tlingit used baleen to make fishnets .
Inuit used whale bone in the building of homes and whale baleen for fishing lines and snares . Baleen was used as runner on the bottom of a sled  and when softened by soaking, baleen was used to make nets . Central Inuit are reported to have used baleen strings to tie a harpoon and its point together . Inuit used the meat of larger whales to make dog food and fox bait, and whale oil was used for fuel, especially by Labrador Inuit . This group also used blubber as food and to burn in stone lamps, bones for house building materials, and baleen for bird snares, drinking cups and fishing line, as well as for trade . Richibucto Micmac used ribs as wedges and for peeling bark .
Beliefs and taboos
West coast cultures including Northern and Central Nootka and Quileute considered whale hunting an important role [3, 23, 26, 35, 36]. During whaling season, the head whale hunter, who was decided according to birthright, confined himself to an open, uncovered building where statuettes of his ancestors made of wood and skulls were laid. Nootka considered whale hunting season sacred, with preparations beginning several days before the season commenced; to prepare for a hunt, the king went up to the top of a mountain alone to pray and sing to their God . The hunters did not see their wives, did not eat their usual food, bathed frequently throughout the day, and rubbed their body with rough objects [25, 27]. If a boat was capsized by a whale, it was believed that one of the hunters did not properly prepare for the hunt, and he was severely reprimanded . The whale hunting crew of northwest coast cultures performed many cleansing rituals and practiced hunting runs to ensure a successful kill . These were the most involved and detailed of any animal hunt due to the prestige held in whale hunting. The family and community also performed good luck rituals. They believed that if hunting rituals were properly performed, the whale would swim towards shore to be killed close to land. This was one belief held by Nootka. The Aleut would strike the whale with poisoned weapons and execute rituals to make the animal die ashore. Nootka and Aleut used skeletons and human bodies attached to a figure of a whale in an effort to invoke ancestral spirits to appeal to the whale.
Northwest Alaskan Inupiat greatly anticipated whale hunting, observing several taboos as the community planned for the event .
Inuit believed the whale gave itself to the hunter to be killed and despised things that were unclean, so in its honor, the community dressed up in their finest attire during a hunt .
Baffinland and Hudson Bay Inuit followed rituals to avoid illness, starvation and poor weather during whaling. This was particularly important during the first three days of the animal’s death when it was believed that its soul was still in the body. Confession of not obeying the taboo usually rectified the situation, but if not, only the sinner’s death would. Touching a bleeding woman (one who is menstruating or who had just given birth) was thought to bring misfortune to hunters. After the death of a whale, it was prohibited to scratch frost off a window, to remove hair from skin, shake out or agitate the beds or the “shrubs” underneath, to get rid of oil remains from a lamp, to handle wood, iron, ivory, or stone, or to cut snow with the intent of melting it. In addition, women were not allowed to wash their face, brush their hair, or to dry out their boots or stockings. When spotting a whale, one was supposed to point at it with the third finger of the right hand. Older people were allowed to watch the hunt, but it was necessary for women to lie down in their tents and to loosen their belts, and for children to tie a leg together with a partner, and walk away from the ocean. After the hunt, boys would pour fresh water over the bow of the kayak of the successful hunter because it was believed this would make them prosperous hunters in the future. No cooking could be done before cutting the whale’s back in two, although eating was allowed. After a prosperous season of whale hunting, all clothing was thrown away at the shore, so that deer (caribou) would not be insulted during their hunting season . It is reported that eating whale was considered taboo among the Lake Saint-John Montagnais .
Inuit reported to have used beluga whale include Central Inuit, Caribou Inuit and those of Hudson Bay, Qikiqtarjuaq (formerly Broughton Island), Cumberland Sound, Starnes Fiord, Nunavik including Payne Bay and Koksoak River, Labrador (including Hopedale), Greenland (including Inglefield Bay and Nordost Bay), among others. Also reported to have used beluga whale are Inuvialuit (of the Mackenzie River and Delta, Richards Island and Mackenzie Bay), Inupiat (of Northwest Alaska, including Kotzebue Sound, Wainwright, Point Hope, Point Barrow), Yupik (including those of Bering Strait, Nunivak Island), Cree (Attawapiskat, West Main, East Main), Tanaina of Cook Inlet, Chukchi and Koryak. Koryak hunted beluga, but in later times are reported to have only consumed those washed ashore, injured by hunters, attacked by killer whales, or hunted by white men who left carcass parts they did not want [11, 13, 23, 24, 33, 49, 52-74].
Beluga is reported to have been available to northern cultures primarily in summer including Wainwright Inupiat , Kanigmiut Inupiat (in Eschscholtz Bay, Kotzebue Sound) , Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit [64, 66] and Caribou Inuit . Cumberland Sound Inuit hunted Beluga June to July in Milurialik near the mouth of the Ranger River in Clearwater fiord, as well as in Millut Bay, with beluga found throughout the Sound in July to August . There are some reports that beluga were available in spring to Point Hope Inupiat and Inuit of Hopedale, Labrador [52, 57, 60, 64, 66-68].
Most commonly, cultures used “umiaks” in shallow waters with harpoons and/or rifles. Chukchi, Yupik (of Bering Strait and Nunivak Island), Inupiat, Mackenzie Inuvialuit, Inuit (including those of Hudson Bay, Cape Prince of Wales in Hudson Strait, Ungava Bay and Greenland) are reported to have used rifles and harpoons .
Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit are reported to have used “whale boats”, rifles and iron harpoons [65, 70]. For Inuvialuit, summer activities focused on the beluga hunt. Groups of hunters would make a line with their kayaks and paddle toward a pod of belugas, yelling and agitating the water to scare them into shallower areas where they were harpooned and lanced . Kittegaryumiut Inuvialuit are reported to have elected a leader for each hunt or every few hunts; however, the first shot was always made by the oldest hunter .
Kanigmiut Inupiat hunted beluga in shallow waters in large groups of kayak hunters using harpoons with floats and lances, and at Choris Peninsula they used nets in deeper water. Because belugas are very easily scared off by noises or disturbances, hunters remained very quiet. In more modern times, the rifle and motorboat were also used, which changed the cooperative, shallow water hunt to more solitary pursuits in deeper water. People with slower boats therefore depended on shares from those who were more successful in the hunt . Wainwright Inupiat hunted mainly from shore to avoid making noise in the water and scaring the beluga. They would sometimes shoot bullets over and beyond the animals into the water to scare them closer to shore. Sometimes a hook was used to recover carcasses that had sunk or boats and floating hooks were used to collect those that were floating. Whaling for the Point Hope Inupiat was successful because the water is usually open and the whales came closer to shore. Boats with four to six men pursued one whale, and a harpoon with a float attached was used. In earlier times, and to a lesser degree later on, there existed many cultural regulations surrounding whaling: no tents, no extra clothing, no cooking of meals, and complete silence was required when whales were seen, and men would stay up night and day ready to hunt . Inupiat are also reported to have used sealskin nets, laid perpendicular to shore, kept in place with stones, and kept afloat with sealskin or bladder floats .
Central Inuit are reported to have thrown stones at belugas found in shallow bays, scaring them into even shallower water, making them easier to harpoon . Labrador Inuit are reported to have used large harpoons with many sealskin floats and an anchor attached to the line, as well as nets, to trap beluga at river mouths when the tide went out [33, 61].
Kanigmiut hunters would light a fire to signal the end of a beluga hunt and women and boys would then help with butchering and bringing the meat back to camp . In more recent times, with the aid of motorboats, belugas were hauled to shore whole and butchered at campgrounds. In the past, the meat was communally divided; in later times, each hunter began to keep what he killed for his family. A beluga caught in summer had a thicker and more highly sought after “maktak”. Oil derived from the blubber was stored in containers. Leftover “maktak” was cut into smaller pieces and dried, boiled until soft, dried again and then put into oil for storage. Most meat was dried and put into oil for storage, except for the meat from the tail, which was eaten at camp. Tail flukes and the melon of the whale were stored in oil, raw, cooked, or fermented, whereas flippers were either fermented or cooked in boiling water. During summer, the brain, lungs, heart and head were eaten; the heart was either boiled or cut and half-dehydrated before cooking, whereas lungs were cut finely, half-dehydrated, then immersed in oil. Brains were fried or eaten fresh, but never stored – if there was too much, it was fed to the dogs. In later times, freezers were used to store meat and blubber.
After a hunt, Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit woman paddled over to the beluga carcasses to help with butchering and transporting of the meat. The meat and blubber was eaten right away, stored in “caches”, dried, or cut into small pieces and put into bags filled with oil. The Kittegaryumiut of the Mackenzie Delta smoked or dehydrated beluga meat over logs, and turned the blubber into oil or stored it in caches for autumn and winter. Oil was made from the blubber and stored in bags made from skin, then stored with “maktak” in “caches” lined with logs .
West Greenland Inuit divided whale meat rigidly amongst those hunters that were involved in the kill, unless there was a large group of hunters and many whales were caught .
Uses other than food
Kanigmiut Inupiat are reported to have used the entire beluga for food, oil, ropes (from the skin), containers (from the stomach, intestines, pericardium and esophagus); the skin from a young beluga was also used. Oil from the beluga’s jaw was used as gun oil, or medicine to relieve congestion . Northwest Alaskan Inupiat, including those of Point Barrow, considered beluga skin to be ideal for making waterproof boot soles, and harpoon lines for walrus and whale hunting [14, 69].
Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit used beluga skin for boot soles, harpoon lines, dog harnesses, “umiak” covers, tent covers; they used beluga stomach for floats to attach to harpoon lines, bags, and windows [65, 66]. Kittegaryumiut Inuvialuit are reported to have used the skin to make the door on hunting houses .
Cumberland Sound Inuit used beluga meat mainly for dog food, but when snowmobiles replaced dogs, they continued to hunt it for its blubber . Similarly, Caribou Inuit ate only the beluga skin, and fed the rest to their dogs . Inuit are reported to have used the baleen to make hunting bows . Oil and skin from beluga caught by Labrador Inuit was exported by the Hudson Bay Company .
Cultures reported to have consumed narwhal include Inupiat, Inuit (including Grise Fiord, Central, Iglulik, Clyde, Baffinland, Qikiqtarjuaq - formerly Broughton Island, Greenland) and Pre-Dorset and Dorset cultures [5, 11, 49, 54, 55, 75-87]. Inupiat (including those of Point Barrow), Inuit (including those of Cumberland Sound, Qikiqtarjuaq – formerly Broughton Island, Inglefield Bay and Nordost Bay, Greenland) also ate narwhal [23, 56, 57, 69, 88-90].
Northern Alaskan coast cultures and Inuit (including Iglulik, Central and Clyde) are reported to have hunted narwhal in spring and summer [54, 75, 77, 78, 80]. Baffinland Inuit hunted narwhal in fall .The spring hunt took place on the floe edge [54, 75, 77, 78], while kayaks were used to hunt on open waters in summer [54, 75, 78]. The spring hunt was done on the floe edge, while the summer hunt was conducted on kayaks . Northern cultures including Inuit from Cumberland Sound hunted when the ice was open enough to give access [23, 57]. Inuit from Nordost Bay hunted during spring (April to June) and fall (September to October). Inuit from Inglefield Bay were reported to hunt from the floe edge.
Traditionally, harpoons were used to kill narwhal [11, 75, 76, 79, 87]. Harpoons used on kayaks were designed to be light; the shaft was made of wood, narwhal ivory, or antler, and the head was made of antler or walrus ivory. The head of the modern harpoon was made of iron . Central Inuit used harpoons with a shaft made of wood or ivory from narwhal tusk, and a head and handle made of ivory . Iglulik Inuit used harpoons made especially for narwhal hunt . Baffinland Inuit used harpoons made of wood and a detachable head made of antler with a large triangular tip . The Dorset used harpoons made of wood with a tip made of ivory or antler . In later years, hunting methods changed: Clyde Inuit  reportedly used rifles by the early 1970s. Northern cultures typically reserved narwhal hunting for the men . Women did related tasks such as rowing boats during hunting expeditions. Iglulik reserved narwhal hunting for older men .
Narwhal was an important source of food and material, with uncooked mattak being highly valued [88, 89]. Northern cultures consumed narwhal meat and blubber raw or boiled [49, 54, 83]. Inuit from Qikiqtarjuaq are reported to have consumed narwhal mattak (aged or not, raw or boiled), blubber (aged or not, raw or boiled), meat, and flippers (aged) [85, 86]. Clyde Inuit reserved the narwhal tusk for selling .
Cultures reported to have used bowhead whale include Yupik (including those of St. Lawrence Island), Inupiat (including those of Point Barrow), Inuit (those of Cumberland Sound, Hudson Strait, Labrador, Greenland among others), Cree (including those of Eastern James Bay) and Thule [7, 14, 23, 24, 33, 49, 54, 57, 65, 69, 91-96]. Availability in many areas decreased during the commercial whaling era.
Arctic coast cultures are reported to have hunted bowhead whale in spring and summer . Inupiat hunted bowheads from April to July , while Inuit hunted bowheads from April to June, and again in late August . Cumberland Sound Inuit hunted bowhead in fall, and prior to commercial whaling, they were available in spring as well [54, 57]. Arctic Thule hunted in summer .
Western Arctic coast cultures used harpoons with heads made from stone, as well as “umiaks” . Alaskan cultures used “darting” and “shoulder” guns, as well as boats covered with hide and American boats made of wood . Inupiat remained on the ice during open water season, but the boats were not brought to the ice until whale season was near . All hunters were men of high standing, owners of the village “umiaks”, and wore adornments during hunting. They used a harpoon with a line and many floats made from seal hide attached. In earlier times, they used lances with the head made from stone, but later on they used lances made from steel as well as some “bomb-guns”. The bowhead whaling season was considered to be a great event for the community, with people following extensive ritualistic acts and ceremonies .
Labrador Inuit hunted bowhead whales in shallow water from boats covered in hide. Larger harpoons were used, with many floats made of seal hide and an anchor attached . The Thule hunted the bowhead whale from boats covered in hide .
Central Inuit threw stones at “right whales”, likely to have been bowhead whales, found in shallow bays, scaring them into shallower water thus making them easier to harpoon .
Northwestern Alaskan Inupiat (including those of Point Barrow) reserved the baleen for all boats that were present during the killing of the whale; the rest of the whale was available to everyone. Once the carcass was brought to the ice, every community member helped in the butchering process [14, 69]. Point Barrow Inupiat are reported to have considered the “muktuk” to be a delicacy . It is reported that Inuit prepared a dish made of equal parts bowhead whale skin and blubber, which were cooked and preserved in mustard . Among Labrador Inuit, the skin of the bowhead whale was considered a delicacy .
Uses other than food
Bowhead whale blubber was used by several cultures for lamp fuel; its large bones were used to build houses; the baleen was used to make bird snares, fishing lines and cups for drinking. In later times, the baleen was traded instead of being used by the community [69, 91].
Cultures reported to have consumed humpback whale include Makah, Quileute, Quinault, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Nuxalk, Aleut and Inuit (including those of Nachvak) [3, 23, 24, 49, 97]. The Nuu-chah-nulth, southern Kwakiutl, Nuxalk, Makah, Quileute, and Quinault consumed the whale throughout the year until the increasing commercial whaling business coincided with a decrease in the whale population .
Humpback whales were hunted from May through September. Hunting for Northern and Central Nootka occurred in summer . Northwest coast cultures including Aleut hunted using an “umiak”, a two person kayak, and a harpoon that was eventually replaced by a lance with a head made of slate . Among the Nuu-chah-nulth, southern Kwakiutl, Nuxalk, Makah, Quileute and Quinault, a harpoon with a line and floats made from seal hide were used: one float was used as a marker along the line close to the harpoon head, and the rest were attached further back so as not to pull the harpoon head out of the animal .
Preparation methods included boiling the whale’s tail. The northern and central Nootka believed the oil and fat of the humpbacked whale caused diarrhea .The Nuu-chah-nulth, southern Kwakiutl, Nuxalk, Makah, Quileute and Quinault used whale bones to make wedges to split wood; the baleen was used to hold waterfowl snares open .
Several arctic cultures are reported to have consumed gray whales , including Nootka, Quileute, Aleut and Inuit [3, 23, 26, 97]. The Makah, Quileute, Quinault, Nuu-chah-nulth, southern Kwakiutl and Nuxalk, are also reported to have consumed Gray whale, with hunting beginning in March/April and continuing through September . Southern Nootka hunted the whale, but Northern Nootka consumed only those found dead on the beach . Hunting season for Nootka is reported to have been spring . Northwest coast cultures including Aleut used an “umiak” and a two person kayak . Harpoons were used, but were later replaced by the lance with a head made of slate. Appointment of the head Nootka whale hunter was by birth and was considered a very important role .
A harpoon with a line and floats made from seal hide were used to catch a gray whale: one float was used as a marker along the line close to the harpoon head, and the rest were attached further back so as not to pull the harpoon head out of the whale. The harpoon head was spliced to cause it to stay in the whale and to allow the pole portion to break off and not strike the men in the boat. Hunting occurred from boats, and when a whale was struck, the men would paddle backwards to prevent being hit by the thrashing whale. Once the whale was dead, one man swam underwater to tie the animal’s mouth shut so it would not drag open when being towed to shore .
Whale bones were used to make wedges to split wood; the baleen was used to hold waterfowl snares open. Preparation methods included boiling the whale’s tail .
Whaling was a celebrated event, and was led by the chief of the village, who was also the harpooner, the observer of whaling customs, and the owner of all whaling tools. A person was obligated to bathe for four consecutive days in various rivers over a period of four years if he intended to become a whaler. Whaling rituals required human bodies, and whale hunters were seen to have very strong powers. During whaling season, the hunter would not have relations with his wife, who was not allowed to comb her hair for fear of a hair strand splitting, which was thought to cause the harpoon line to break. When a hunting party left, the wives were to lay still in darkness and refrain from drinking. Once a whale was struck, the whalers sang to it and promised great respect. The fin of the whale went to the harpooner, who would adorn it and honour its spirit through rituals .
Among the Nuu-chah-nulth, the chief of the community would perform rituals of singing, dancing and drum beating in front of a whale shrine consisting of human skulls and large figures, especially when the village was hungry from lack of food. When a whale was drifting in, the skulls would tip over, and the chief would hear a voice telling him the whale was coming .
Cultures reported to have consumed northern right whale include Southern Kwakiutl, Makah, Quileute, Quinault, Inupiat, Aleut and Inuit (Central, those from Baffin Island, Labrador, Greenland) [11, 23, 49, 98]. For Northwest coast cultures, hunting occurred mainly from April to midway through summer, and again in September .
Northern and Central Nootka, Tlingit and Inuit are reported to have consumed killer whale [3, 19, 49, 51]. The Northern and Central Nootka did not normally kill this type of whale, but it was sometimes fought by young men as a show of talent and strength . It is reported that the Tlingit did not know how to kill the whale but parts of the whale were used to make fish nets, and tool artifacts have been found at Daxatkanada and Pillsbury Point .
The Wampanoag are thought to have consumed sperm whale, as evidenced by tooth remains . Northwest coast cultures including Aleut also are reported to have consumed sperm whale; hunting was done in an “umiak” and a two-person kayak with a lance with a head made of slate .
The Wampanoag are thought to have consumed long-finned pilot whales, as evidenced by shell heap remains . The Tlingit were reported to consume short-finned pilot whales .
Northern bottlenose whales are reported to have been consumed by Inuit of Hopedale, which they hunted in late summer and fall .
Arctic cultures are reported to have also consumed the minke whale, fin whale, and blue whale .
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Whales can be divided into baleen whales, with long baleen plates (instead of teeth) used to filter-feed on small shrimp-like crustaceans called krill and toothed whales, with triangular teeth used to feed on larger prey including fish, various marine invertebrates, and seals. Baleen whales include all species of rorquals, like the largest blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), a few species of right whales, like the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) and the northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), and one species of gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). Toothed whales include the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), killer whale (Orcinus orca), beluga (Delphinapterus leucas), narwhal (Monodon monoceros), pilot whales, the northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus), and many species of dolphins and porpoises.
The beluga (Delphinapterus leucas), also called white whale, is most closely related to the narwhal (Monodon monoceros). Belugas occur in cold waters of the Arctic and sub-Arctic distributed in the western Arctic (Beaufort Sea), high Arctic (Lancaster Sound, Baffin Bay), eastern Arctic (Cumberland Sound and southeast Baffin, Hudson Bay, James Bay and Ungava Bay) and in the St. Lawrence Estuary. The beluga whale is called béluga in French.
They are medium-sized whales, adults typically weighing 1,382 kg and measuring between 4 and 6 m long. Males are up to 25% longer than females and have a more robust build. They have a dorsal ridge, but no dorsal fin, an unusual flexibility of the head and neck, a small bulbous head, and a unique all white body colour in adults. Belugas are actually born gray-cream, quickly turning to dark brown or blue-gray, and progressively becoming lighter coloured as they age, to finally be all white between 7 and 9 years old. They are well adapted to life in cold waters with their relatively small head, tail, and flippers and their thick fat blubber insulation (up to 15 cm thick). Belugas are also quite unique among most other cetaceans in that they undergo an annual molt.
They migrate from coastal waters in spring to range widely off shore during the summer and migrate again with advancing polar ice in the winter. In the summer, they form dense concentrations at discrete locations, often in sheltered, warm water river estuaries, shallow inlets, and bays. Belugas are very social and are more commonly seen in groups that may aggregate at times to form herds of several hundred to more than a thousand animals. Groups are often separated in pods of all males or all adult females and claves. They feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates (mollusks and crustaceans), but mostly on fish (salmon, herring, capelin, smelt, and cod). They generally swim slowly, rarely leap at the surface, and regularly dive to 500 m deep, but up to over 1000 m for up to 25 min. Their very diverse vocal repertoire, from which they were given their former common name sea canary, is used in social communication, but also in navigating through complex and noisy icy waters of the Arctic.
Belugas live for 40 years or more, first breed in their fifth to eighth year, breed every three years, have a gestation period of 14-15 months, and give birth in late spring-early summer to a single calf, about 1.6 m long, that will be weaned up to two years later. Polar bears and killer whales can prey on belugas. Beluga populations have been heavily hunted and have barely recovered, even after a few decades of official protection. Globally, the species is listed by the IUCN as near threatened. In Canada, many beluga populations are listed as threatened or endangered under COSEWIC, including the Ungava Bay, the Eastern Hudson Bay, and the St. Lawrence Estuary populations, and between 72,000 and 144,000 belugas are estimated to live in Canadian waters .
The narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is most closely related the beluga (Delphinapterus leucas). Narwhals occur in remote North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean and occur through out the eastern Canadian High Arctic, including Baffin Bay, northern Hudson Bay, and Hudson Straight. The narwhal is called narval in French and is sometimes referred to as the sea unicorn for the unique, up to 3 m long, spiraled tusk formed from one anterior tooth in the left upper jaw of mostly male individuals. However, some males have no tusk, while some have two and females are occasionally seen with tusks. The function of the tusk has generated much dispute, but is most likely a secondary sexual trait related to hierarchy and social rank in adult narwhals.
Narwhals are medium-sized whales, adults typically weighing 939 kg and measuring between 4 and 5 m long. Adult narwhals have a robust body completely mottled on the back and white on the underside, a small bulbous head, short blunt flippers, a small dorsal ridge instead of a dorsal fin, and a concave tail fluke with tips that end to turn upwards with age. Newborn narwhals are evenly gray or dark-brownish gray, but in their first and second year, their coloration changes gradually to a dark background color with white patches towards the mottled appearance found in adults. Narwhals can dive up to 1000 m for about 25 min and apparently reduce their diving frequency and increase their diving depth during autumn and early winter. They are also known for their varied vocalizations used in social communication and navigation.
They migrate with the ice and move to warm coastal areas in summer and offshore during freeze-up where they spend the winter under dense pack ice. Narwhals typically prey on high Arctic fish species associated with the upper layer of the open ocean (pelagic fish), like the polar cod and Arctic cod, but also feed on fish species found at great depths, such as the Greenland halibut and redfish, and on schools of squids found at variable depths. Because narwhals inhabit inaccessible and remote habitats, there are some uncertainties and knowledge gaps in some life history traits. The gestation period is likely between 13 and 16 months, given narwhal breeding seems to occur in March-May and calving to occur in July-August. Female narwhals likely breed every 3 years giving birth to a singly calf, about 1.6 m long, that will be weaned 1-2 years later. Polar bears and killer whales can prey on narwhals. In winter, narwhals are abundant offshore, in the heavy dense pack ice of northern Davis Straight and Baffin Bay where numbers have been estimated at 35,000 whales. However, the much smaller northern Hudson Bay population, with an estimated 1,300 whales, has given the narwhal its special concern status according to COSEWIC .
The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is found in northern waters, including the Bering Sea, the Beaufort Sea, and the Arctic Ocean. Most of them migrate from the Bering Sea in the winter through the Chukchi Sea to the Beaufort Sea in the summer. The bowhead whale is called baleine boréale in French.
They are large-sized whales, typically weighing 80,000 kg and measuring around 16 m long, with a fluke about 4 m across. Bowhead whales are rotund in shape and have no dorsal fin, broad flippers with blunt tips, a large head with a large bowed mouth, and white patterns on their chin, undersides, tail, and fluke contrasting with their otherwise predominantly black colour. They have the thickest blubber (5.5-28 cm) and skin (2.5 cm) of any whale species to insulate them from icy cold northern waters.
Bowhead whales feed mainly on krill throughout the water column, on the surface (called “skimming”) and at or near the seafloor (as evidenced by mud smeared across their heads and backs). They breed for the first time late in life, breed every 3-4 years, have a gestation period of over one year (13-14 months), and give birth in spring to a single calf that will be weaned one year later. Today, even a hundred years after whaling has stopped, bowhead whales are still endangered according to COSEWIC and the largest remnant stock in the Bering Sea consists of approximately 8,000 individuals .
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is one of the best known and easily recognizable large whales present in all oceans of the world, excluding tropical warm waters. They are highly migratory, performing the longest known migration of any mammals of almost 8,000 km one way. They spend the summer on coastal or shelf water feeding areas in mid or high latitude waters and the winter on calving grounds close to islands or reefs in mid or high latitude waters. The humpback whale is called rorqual à bosse in French.
They are medium-sized whales, typically weighing 30,000 kg and measuring between 11 and 16 m long, with a small dorsal fin and noticeably long flippers that are ventrally white, contrasting with an otherwise black body colour. Humpbacks often perform spectacular aerial behaviours, like breaching, lobtailing, and flippering. They have a generalist filter-feeding diet, including krill and various species of small schooling fish, but are quite unique in their use of bubbles to corral or trap schools of preys. Humpbacks breed for the first time in their fifth year, breed every two years, have a gestation of almost one full year (11 months), and give birth in mid-winter to a single calf that will be weaned one year later. Humpback whale populations have greatly suffered from over harvesting, but are slowly recovering from their endangered status. The North Atlantic population is estimated at over 10,000 individuals, while the North Pacific population is at around 7,000 individuals and is listed as of special concern by COSEWIC .
The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is only found in the North Pacific and Pacific Arctic Oceans and occur mainly along the coast. They are nomadic and highly migratory, making the longest migration of any whales (up to 20,000km round trip). The gray whale is called baleine grise in French.
They are medium-sized, slow-moving whales, typically weighing 27,000 kg and measuring between 13 and 15 m long. They are more slender than right whales and most stocky than most rorquals, have no dorsal fins, and a distinctive mottled gray skin with lighter patches scattered all over the body. Gray whales have more external parasites on their skin than any other cetaceans. They are primarily bottom-feeders, filtering small organisms from the upper layer of the sea floor. They first breed late in life (between 6 and 12 years old), breed every two years, have a gestation period of around one year (11-13 months), and give birth in winter to a single calf that will be weaned 7-8 months after. The western and the eastern North Pacific populations are estimated at over 50,000 individuals and are listed as of special concern by COSEWIC .
The northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) occurs in the western North Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Florida, but was once more widespread, with only about 300 individuals left. They are medium-sized whales, typically weighing 23,000 kg. They feed entirely on small aquatic invertebrates (zooplankton) and they migrate annually to lower latitudes for breeding and calving .
The killer whale (Orcinus orca), also called orca, is most closely related to other member of the same toothed whale family, like pilot whales and dolphins. They are the most widely distributed of all whales and occur in noticeable concentrations along the northwestern coast of North America.
They are a small-sized whale or a large-sized dolphin, the largest member of their family, and typically weigh 5,600 kg and measure between 8 and 9 m in long. Killer whales are easily recognized by their dorsally black and ventrally white colour pattern and their tall erect dorsal fin. They feed mostly on fish and seals. Globally, killer whales are listed by the IUCN as of low conservation risk, but in Canada, they are listed as threatened with an estimated 1,500 killer whales in coastal waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean .
The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) stands alone in a toothed whale family. They are one of the most widely distributed whales and occur in great numbers where there is a lot of deep water food. Adults typically weigh 14,500 kg, but males can be up to three times bigger than females and weigh over 45,000 kg. Sperm whales are easily recognized by their massive squared head. They have a very strict diet, consisting almost exclusively of squids. Sperm whales are abundant and could globally reach up to 1.5 million individuals .
Pilot whales, the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and the short-finned pilot whale (G. macrorhynchus), are two closely related species of toothed whales. They are wide ranging, with the short-finned occurring in warm tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters, while the long-finned is found in cold waters of the North Atlantic and of the southern Hemisphere.
They are small-sized whales or large-sized dolphins, typically weighing 800 kg and measuring about 6 m long. The have either short or long pointed flippers, a bulbous globe-like head, a large dorsal fin with a lighter coloured “saddle” patch behind it, a robust body with a thick tail, and a dark body colour. They are amongst the most social cetaceans and are always in pods of many individuals, from tens to thousands of individuals .
The northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) is in a family of beaked toothed whales. They occur in deep waters of cold and temperate regions of the North Atlantic. They typically weigh 3,400 kg, are 6 to 9 m long, and have a large bulbous head with a short dolphin-like beak. They are deep divers and are most often foraging along the sea floor, around 1,400 m below the surface .
Other filter-feeding baleen whales in the northern hemisphere include the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), and the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). They are all in the same family as the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), but with a much widespread oceanic distribution. The minke whale is the smallest, rarely measuring more than 10 m long and typically weighing 5,600 kg, while the blue whale is the largest animal ever known, measuring close to 34 m long and typically weighing 150,000 kg. The minke whale is common in western North Atlantic and eastern North Pacific, while the blue whale and fin whale are endangered .
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