Chukotka whalers get new boats, satellite navigation from government

Whalers from Russia’s Far East have received new boats and Glonass satellite navigation equipment under a state support program for native peoples, a regional administration spokesman said.

The move is an expansion of the broader state initiative to introduce in Russia Glonass, a satellite navigation system rivaling the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS). In a move to edge out the U.S. rival, Russian authorities want Glonass sets be installed in all public transportation and have recently increased import tariffs on GPS devices including iPads.

“The Levadia steamboat brought a large batch of equipment for marine hunters of two Chukotka districts, the traditional centers of marine mammal hunting,” a spokesman for the agricultural department of the Chukotka Autonomous District’s administration said.

Hunters received eight large motor boats, rescue equipment, Glonass satellite navigation vessel-tracking systems and fuel. Another delivery is expected in late November.

Hunting grey whales has been banned in Russia since 1947. Russia’s northeasternmost Chukotka Peninsula is the only region in Russia where whaling is permitted to encourage traditional activities and preserve the ethnic identity and cultural heritage of the region’s indigenous peoples.

So far eight communities, employing about 320 people, are hunting whales and other marine mammals in the region. This year hunters killed 117 whales and 2,906 walruses and seals.

Their activities are supported by the four-year state program with a total budget of 378.2 million rubles ($12.3 million) allocated from the federal and district budgets. The deliveries under the program began in 2010.

Apart from receiving subsidies from the state, native whalers are provided with fuel and various types of equipment, including boats and off-road vehicles. The state also gives them equipment for communications, rescue and navigation.

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