Striving for Co-Management


People of the Sea

Sea otters, Steller sea lions, and harbor seals have been important subsistence resources for the Chugach Alaska Natives for millennia. They are an equally important component of the ecosystems in coastal regions of Southcentral Alaska. This region stretches from the Lower Cook Inlet throughout Prince William Sound and the Lower Copper River. As subsistence practices continue to be shared with the younger generations, co-management is a key component to ensuring that marine mammals are used by future generations. Involvement of the people who live with and depend on marine mammals during the research process contributes critical and integral data to the management evaluations.

imam-suga - CRRC
Marine Mammal Program CRRC

The ocean is the foundation of subsistence for all seven Tribes. Tribal Members have honored and upheld the practice of using marine mammals since time immemorial for food, cultural connectivity, traditional art, and economic development blanketed under the term subsistence. CRRC, on behalf of its seven communities, is working toward assuming the responsibility and authority to exercise our Indigenous rights to act as stewards of our traditional territories and resources. Co-management will reaffirm our commitment to respect, conserve, and manage while protecting the hunt, traditional uses, and local marine mammal habitat based on our knowledge and appropriate scientific principles. 

Chugach Imaq -  - Chugach Regional Resources Commission

The goal of Chugach Imaq is to create a harvest management plan for the Chugach region for the benefit and conservation of marine mammals, which are essential to coastal Alaska Native life. To do so, CRRC is currently studying the health and condition of marine mammals through a bio-sampling program from subsistence-harvested seals that is a reiteration of a previous harbor seal bio-sampling program implemented by the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission. CRRC focuses on three subsistence species: harbor seal, sea otter, and Steller sea lion. 

CRRC has established a rigorous standardized bio-sampling program using the well-established Aleut Community of St. Paul’s Indigenous Sentinel Network (ISN) protocols. This bio-sampling program aims to evaluate the risk to Tribal Members who have regular contact with marine mammals through subsistence use and to understand the health of marine mammal populations in the Gulf of Alaska.


With financial support from the NDN Collective, the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, and the Marine Mammal Commission, CRRC’s Marine Mammal Program has been working toward answering critical questions posed in a 2016 report.  View full report here.

Since 2021, the Marine Mammal Program has hosted quarterly Marine Mammal Workgroup meetings that include village marine mammal hunters/harvesters as well as representatives from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alaska Federation of Natives, U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, Native Village of Eyak Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Indigenous Peoples Council for Marine Mammals. The meetings create a space for establishing goals and objectives for the program, reviewing data from partner organizations, engaging in robust discussions of existing management priorities, and generating ideas about future marine mammal management schemes, laws, and regulations that may work for the communities of the Chugach region.


Marine Mammal
Protection Act

The MMPA establishes a federal responsibility for managing and conservating marine mammals. Under this statute, the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Commerce have management responsibility. Specifically, the Secretary of the Interior, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), protects and manages polar bears, sea and marine otters, and walruses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) protects and manages whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions. 

The Marine Mammal Protection Act Amendments of 1994 (Public Law 103-238) directed many tasks, but essential to CRRC’s work is the federal responsibility to negotiate co-management agreements with Alaska Native organizations. Co-Management under Section 119 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act promotes the full and equal participation of Alaska Natives in decisions affecting the conservation and management of marine mammals used for subsistence. Many excellent examples of co-management agreements under Section 119 throughout the state of Alaska exist. These successes have shown that effective management and conservation through co-management agreements provide intangible benefits gained through active partnerships. 

Co-management between Alaska Native organizations (ANOs) and federal agencies has enhanced cooperation, trust, and respect; however, while significant progress has been achieved, much more can be done for ANOs to fully exercise their authority under Section 119. CRRC does not currently have a co-management agreement and does not fall under any jurisdiction from another ANO, but is working tirelessly to create a formalized role of marine mammal management within the Chugach region while collaborating with federal and private partners to develop local management plans, enhance
co-management strategies, and conduct surveys that will provide necessary data for all parties.

Indigenous Peoples
Council of Marine

The Indigenous Peoples Council of Marine Mammals (IPCoMM) was formally organized in Anchorage, Alaska, in January 1992 following a Marine Mammal Conference in December 1991 sponsored by the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, where Native leaders identified long-term marine mammal issues.

IPCoMM Priorities:


MMPA reauthorization




Applying Traditional Knowledge to the subsistence issue

CRRC is one of 18 ANOs that serve on the IPCoMM. IPCoMM meets twice a year to discuss issues of common concern regarding marine mammal conservation and subsistence.  

CRRC's IPCoMM Representative

Raven Cunningham
from Cordova, Alaska

Projects & Studies

Subsistence Alliance

Foods Project

Migratory Bird

Nanwalek Salmon
Enhancement Project

Lower Cook Inlet
Moose Composition

Bat Sonar

Learn More about the Marine Mammals in Our Region