Makah whale hunt up for review
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JANUARY 16, 2001

The controversial whale hunt of the Makah Nation of Washington is up for public comment once again, renewing debate over the ancient tradition.

But this time, the government might hope to avoid any legal complications which threatened to cut short the revived whale hunt. Last year, a federal court in June set aside a environmental assessment in response to challenges made by animal-rights activists and former Congressman Jack Metcalf (R-Wash).

On Friday, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a new, draft assessment of the whale hunt. It seeks to establish a quota for the next two years of hunting by families of the 1,500-member tribe whose whaling tradition stretches back centuries but was stopped earlier this century by commercial exploitation worldwide.

With the gray whale population on the rise, however, the species is no longer in danger of dying out. In 1994, the government removed it from the endangered species list and in 1999, the tribe hunted its first whale in over 70 years, exercising rights reserved to them in a 19th-century treaty.

According to the assessment, the Pacific gray whale population is estimated to be 26,600. Under four scenarios laid out by the government, the tribe could take as many as five whales per year for the next two years or none at all.

The first option would limit hunting by tribal members to the whales' annual migrations between Alaska and Mexico. The conditions would be similar to those under which the 1999 and 2000 hunts -- when no whales were killed -- occurred.

The second would allow hunting at all times of the year, including a limited hunt outside the migration period. A third would place no limits on when or how the tribe would hunt, with a maximum of five whales killed.

The final option would not set a quota for hunting at all. But the government says the tribe could sue in order to enforce its treaty rights or the tribe could continue to hunt whales should no quota be issued.

Public comments are being accepted in writing by the NMFS until February 16. A hearing will also be held February 1 in Seattle, Washington, to discuss the assessment.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Defense International, opponents of the hunt, are currently suing the state of Washington for allowing the hunt to take place.

Get the Draft Environmental Assessment:
Makah Whaling Draft Environmental Assessment (NMFS January 2001)

Send Public Comments on Draft to:
Gale Heim
Office of Protected Resources
NOAA Fisheries, 1315East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Only on Indianz.Com:
The Makah Whale Hunt (A Top Story of 1999)

Related Stories:
Whaling protester sentenced (The Talking Circle 09/05)
Makah ruling overturned (Tribal Law 6/9)
Metcalf's Indian history (The Talking Circle 6/9)
Metcalf pleased with ruling (Tribal Law 6/9)
Protester to face court (Tribal Law 06/06)
Injured whale hunt protester remains defiant (The Talking Circle 4/21)

Relevant Links:
The Makah Nation -