In May 1999, the Makah Nation conducted its first successful whale hunt in more than 70 years. Photo: Larry Workman

Makah Nation once again asks for approval to exercise treaty whale hunting rights

The Makah Nation is the only tribe with a treaty-guaranteed right to hunt whales but hasn't been able to exercise those rights in 20 years due to opposition from environmental groups.

A proposal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration changes that. It grants a waiver to the tribe so that it can carry out a hunt in accordance with the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay

“We are moving forward carefully, and deliberately, to support the tribe’s treaty rights while we also fully consider the potential impacts on the whales and protect their populations,” Chris Yates, the Assistant Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region, said in a press release on Thursday.

Totems on the Makah Nation. Photo: John Fowler

The tribe hunted whales for centuries but stopped in the 1920s due to international exploitation that threatened the survival of the gray whale. After the whale was removed from the endangered species list, the tribe concluded a successful hunt in May 1999.

But lawsuits from environmental groups resulted in a series of negative rulings from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which required the hunt to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a federal law.

Up until now, however, the federal government never acted definitively on the tribe's request for a waiver even though it was submitted way back in 2005.

“We have examined this proposal from every angle and have developed hunting regulations that provide for public safety, protect the gray whale populations, and respect the Makah Tribe’s treaty rights and culture,” Yates said of the new proposal.

A notice being published in the Federal Register on Friday announces the proposed rule. A second forthcoming notice announces an August 12 hearing in Seattle, Washington, to discuss the waiver.

Anyone wishing to participate in the hearing must submit a request by May 6.

Read More on the Story
US proposes plan for Washington tribe to resume whale hunts (The Associated Press April 4, 2019)
Feds propose allowing Makah tribe to hunt gray whales again (The Seattle Times April 4, 2019)
Makah Tribe's request to hunt gray whales moving forward (KIRO 7 News April 4, 2019)
Makah Tribe could again hunt whales off Washington coast (KUOW April 4, 2019)

Forthcoming Federal Register Notices
Regulations Governing the Taking of Marine Mammals (To Be Published April 5, 2019)
Announcement of Hearing Regarding Proposed Waiver and Regulations Governing the Taking of Marine Mammals (To Be Published April 5, 2019)

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