Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XII No. 1 - January 2003

Makah Whaling Stopped, For Now

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in mid-December that the Makah Tribe could not resume gray whale hunts, agreeing with a coalition of plaintiffs that included CSI, who argued that a federal assessment of the hunt was arbitrary. Having failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when their assessment determined there was no significant impact from the whaling, NMFS will have to prepare a full environmental impact statement. The court also found the whale hunts violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which requires that any marine mammal whose numbers have fallen 60 percent be designated as depleted. In 1999, a circuit court panel found that NMFS had violated NEPA when it approved a hunt-management plan before completing its study of the hunt's impact. While CSI has opposed the hunt from the beginning, we have never disputed the Makah Tribe's treaty rights, or the need to re-establish tribal strength and values. However, with scientific estimates of the population varying by over 30 percent within two years, evidence of significant habitat and prey problems, fluctuating births and strandings, and a vulnerable population of "summer resident" gray whales inviting a canned hunt, authorizing whaling just doesn't make sense. NMFS has 90 days to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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