Thursday, December 9

Judge Recommends That Tribe Be Allowed To Hunt Gray Whales In Washington State | Whales


An administrative law judge recommended that a Native American tribe in Washington state be allowed to hunt gray whales, an important step in their decades-long effort to resume the ancient practice.

“This is a testament to what we have been saying all these years: that we are doing everything we can to show that we are moving responsibly forward,” Patrick DePoe, vice president of the Makah tribe in the remote northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, said the Friday. “We are not doing this for commercial reasons. We do it for spiritual and cultural reasons. “

DePoe was in high school in the late 1990s when the Makah were last allowed to hunt whales, occasions that sparked angry protests from animal rights activists who sometimes threw smoke bombs at whalers and They sprayed fire extinguishers in their faces.

Since then, the tribe’s attempts have been tied to legal challenges and scientific reviews. A federal appeals court ruled in 2002 that the Makah needed an exemption under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The tribe requested one in 2005, but has not received it.

On Thursday, nearly two years after presiding over a hearing on a government proposal to approve the waiver, Administrative Law Judge George Jordan issued his 156-page recommendation to the U.S. Department of Commerce, finding that tribal hunts they would have no effect on the general healthy whale population.

The recommendation, with a public comment period and additional environmental analysis, will inform the final decision, although no timeline has been established.

As proposed, the exemption would allow the tribe to land up to 20 Eastern North Pacific gray whales over 10 years, with hunts scheduled to minimize the already low chances of accidentally harpooning an endangered Western North Pacific gray whale.

While Jordan deemed the issuance of the waiver appropriate, he also recommended additional restrictions that could drastically reduce the number of whales the tribe kills, perhaps as few as five during the decade-long waiver period. DePoe said the tribe was reviewing that recommendation, but called it a potential source of frustration and further discussion.

The tribe hopes to use the whales for food and to make crafts, art and tools that they can sell.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Animal Welfare Institute oppose the hunts. They argued that the environmental review has been inadequate, that the Marine Mammal Protection Act may have nullified the tribe’s treaty law, and that the tribe cannot claim a subsistence or cultural need to hunt after so many decades.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said in an email that it was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment. The Animal Welfare Institute did not respond to an email.

Evidence presented to the government showed that the Makah, now numbering around 1,500, have hunted whales for more than 2,700 years. The tribe’s 1855 treaty with the United States reserved the “right to fish and hunt whales or seals in the usual and customary places.”

The Makah continued whaling until the 1920s, when they abandoned it because commercial whaling devastated populations. The gray whale population rebounded in the eastern Pacific in 1994, is now estimated at 27,000, and they were removed from the endangered species list.

The Makah trained for months in the ancient ways of whaling and received the blessing of federal officials and the International Whaling Commission. They took to the water in 1998, but were unsuccessful until the following year, when they harpooned a gray whale from a hand-carved cedar canoe. A member of the tribe in a motorized support boat killed him with a high-powered rifle to minimize his suffering.

DePoe was in a canoe that greeted the returning whalers as they towed the whale, and his high school shop class worked to clean the bones and reassemble the skeleton, which hangs in a tribal museum.

“The connection between us and the whales is strong,” he said. “The Northwest tribes have always considered ourselves stewards of the land, stewards of the animals. We are not trying to do anything to contribute to the depletion of these resources. “


www.theguardian.com

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