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The Latest: Alaska Native leader responds to whale kill

The Latest on Alaska Native hunters who illegally killed a whale (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

The head of an Alaska Native organization who received a federal warning about the illegal killing of a protected gray whale last year says her group respects laws and treaties protecting whales.

Vivian Korthuis, CEO of the Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents, was among Native leaders who got a letter from U.S. investigators who decided not to prosecute indigenous hunters for the 2017 kill.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advised officials in three Native communities about limits to subsistence whaling. The letters also warned that future offenses would be dealt with more severely.

Korthuis says her organization provided presentations about whaling last October at its annual convention to help educate the region.

A federal investigative report recently provided to The Associated Press through a public records request says the hunters in initially believed they were legally killing a beluga whale.

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12: 15 p.m.

Indigenous hunters in southwest Alaska initially believed they were legally taking a beluga whale when they unlawfully killed a protected gray whale with harpoons and guns after it strayed into the Kuskokwim River last year.

That’s according to a federal investigative report provided to The Associated Press through a public records request.

Federal officials didn’t prosecute the hunters for the unauthorized kill in July 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instead sent letters to officials in three communities advising native leaders about limits to subsistence whaling.

Federal officials at the time declined to name which communities received the letters, which also warned that future offenses would be dealt with more severely. The public records show the letters were sent to tribal leaders for Bethel, Napaskiak and Oscarville.

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