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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

June 2000   —   Makah Whale Hunt Suspended

The Makah Tribe of Washington State has had its permit to whale revoked by the US Court of Appeals, on grounds that the original environmental assessment was flawed. The Court has decided that a lower court must now re-evaluate the entire issue.

Environmentalists were delighted with the verdict, while Makah tribe members say it is only a minor setback. They are asserting their right to whale and say that they will respect the Courtís decision, but intend to fight on to renew their permit.

In 1998, the US Government provided the necessary permit to the Makah, a llowing them to hunt up to 5 gray whales annually, during the animalsí migration up and down the west coast. Whale supporters were outraged, while the Makah maintained that whaling was their "tradition", a stand that divided the tribe as even some tribe elders declared that the days of whaling were over and it was a travesty to use the "tradition" argument, as the last Makah whaling had occurred over 70 years before. There were hints and rumors that some of the whale meat (if not all) was destined for the commercial market, notably Japan, and indeed several of the proposed whalers stated on national television that they were thinking about selling the meat, and saw no problem with a commercial hunt. (Not quite a "traditional" viewpoint.)

During that first year of the renewed hunt (1998), no whales were killed. In 1999, one gray whale was taken. So far this year, prior to the Courtís decision, the Makah had not managed to kill any whales.

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