Court rules on whaling
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JUNE 12, 2000

On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the federal government to take a better look at the environmental impact of the Makah whale hunt.

Its now up to the National Marine Fisheries Program (NMFS) to conduct a new assessment of the hunt. The NMFS, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Department of Commerce have supported the Makah's right to hunt whale, secured in the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, ever since the Makah expressed their interest in renewing one of their most ancient traditions.

A new review could take several months, but for the Makah, who waited more than 70 years to begin the hunt after commercial exploitation worldwide decimated the gray whale population, the ruling is not likely to have much of an immediate effect. With the current whaling season ending in less than a month, no new whaling permits had been issued by the Makah Whaling Commission.

For animal rights activists who have long protested the hunt, the ruling is seen as a significant decision in their favor. Representative Jack Metcalf (R Wash), who led the lawsuit against the federal government, said on Friday that the ruling is a "huge victory." Others went so far as to state the Makah hunt has been ruled illegal.

However, the case of Metcalf et al v. Daley et al centered around the government's conformance to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Makah treaty and the International Whaling Commission's approval of a subsistence quota of 5 whales a year were not at issue.

In their 2-1 opinion, the court ruled the government did not follow the procedures laid out by NEPA. By the time the NOAA and NMFS prepared an environmental assessment as required by the law, the agencies had already entered into an agreement with the Makah.

Judge Kleinfeld wrote the dissent, questioning the need for a new assessment, stating that the court did not identify anything wrong with the first.

In related news, Erin Abbott, the anti-whaling protester injured in April during a skirmish with the US Coast Guard, pleaded guilty to violating the 500-yard moving exclusionary zone (MEZ) around the hunt. Her trial was to begin today.

Related Stories:
Makah ruling overturned (Tribal Law 6/9)
Metcalf's Indian history (The Talking Circle 6/9)
Metcalf pleased with ruling (Tribal Law 6/9)

Get the decision:
Metcalf v. Daley (HTML)

What do you think about the whale hunt? Do you think the government continue to support the tribe? Talk about the recent events in a discussion on The Makah Whale Hunt.
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Lies. Deceit. Fabrication. Paul Watson and the SSCS: An Indianz.Com True Internet Story.
A Top Story of 1999. The Makah Whale Hunt

Relevant Links:
The Makah Nation:
The Makah Management Plan from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission:
Rep. Jack Metcalf:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
The National Marine Fisheries Program:
From the Indiana University School of Law: Environmental Decisionmaking