Makah ruling overturned
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JUNE 9, 2000

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Representative Jack Metcalf (R Wash) and animal rights activists today and ruled that the federal authorization of the Makah whale hunt did not adequately consider the environmental impact.

The 2-1 decision by the 9th Circuit today reinstates a 1998 challenge initiated by Metcalf and supporters, sending it back to the District Court in Washington. The government has been ordered to suspend an agreement with the Makah Nation of Washington and must start a new environmental assessment of the hunt.

At issue in the case Metcalf et al v. Daley et al was the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Metcalf and party had argued that the federal government violated NEPA by preparing an inadequate Environmental Assessment (EA) and by not preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In order to resume whale hunting as promised to them in the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay, the Makah Nation of Washington asked the federal government, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Program (NMFS), and the Department of Commerce, for help in resuming their hunt, which had been last practiced in 1924.

The NOAA prepared a report on the hunt, basically supporting the tribe. However, the agency did not issue an EA or an EIS. The agency formally entered into a first agreement with the Makah Nation in 1996 and another subsequently in 1997, agreeing to monitor the Makah's hunt, with certain stipulations placed on the hunt.

But it wasn't until 1988 that the Administration issued a public notice on the hunt, leading Metcalf and other animal rights organizations to file a suit against the government. Their suit was dismissed in September 1988.

The following May, the Makah conducted their first successful whale hunt in over 70 years.

Judge Kleinfeld dissented from the Court's opinion, citing the majority erred in misconstruing the objectivity and time requirements imposed by NEPA and by ruling a new environmental assessment be done without identifying anything wrong with the first.

Officials from the Makah Whaling Commission and spokespersons for Jack Metcalf have been contacted but have not returned requests for comments.

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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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