Commentary on Proposed Makah Whaling Deadline Waiver Looms


SEATTLE – A written public comment is expected by October 19 on the recommendation of an administrative judge that the Makah tribe be granted a waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and be allowed to hunt a limited number of gray whales.

On September 23, Administrative Law Judge George J. Jordan recommended to the US Department of Commerce that the Makah be allowed to hunt subsidence, but also urged that the number of whales that can be caught be possibly as low. as five whales during the ten-year waiver period.

The National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known as NOAA Fisheries, had proposed to issue a waiver and regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow the Makah tribe to take a limited number Northeast Pacific Gray Whales for ceremonial and sustenance purposes. purposes.

Jordan’s 156-page recommendation was the result of a six-day hearing in 2019 and a public comment period in 2020.

Public comments and other environmental scans will inform the ministry’s final decision, although no timeline has been set for this.

Further opportunities for public comment will be provided throughout the process.

A decision to issue the waiver and proposed settlements would be followed by a formal rulemaking process that would include a trial-type hearing and a final decision to grant or deny the request.

If the waiver is approved, it will go through a federal Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization process which, if approved, should be authorized under the Whaling Convention Act, and the National Marine Fisheries Service would enter into an agreement to cooperation with the tribe.

To submit written comments electronically on the rule named NOAA-NMFS-2019-0037, go to and click the “Comment now” icon “.

A written comment may also be sent by mail to the attention of Grace Ferrara, NMFS West Coast Region, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. Include the identifier “NOAA-NMFS-2019-0037” in comments.

Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or person, or received after the comment period has ended, may not be considered by the NMFS. All comments received are part of the public record.

For more information, contact Jaclyn Taylor, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; [email protected]

The recommended decision is posted on the NMFS website at https: // www.

The Makah made the request on February 14, 2005.

Their last legal hunt dates back to 1999.

In September 2007, five men from Makah illegally shot and harpooned a gray whale that died of its injuries and sank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Scientists at Cascadia Research determined that it was a resident whale identified as CRC-175.

The Makah Tribal Council said the hunt did not have its permission.

Neah Bay residents Andy Noel and Wayne Johnson were sentenced to federal prison for their role in the illegal hunt, Johnson at five months and Noel at 90 days.

Frankie Gonzales, Theron Parker and William Secor pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor each of violating marine mammal protection law and were placed on two-year probation.

Among those opposing another whaling in Makah are the Joyce-based Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Animal Welfare Institute.

The Makahs, now numbering around 1,500, have hunted whales for over 2,700 years. The tribe’s 1855 treaty with the United States reserved the “right to catch fish and to hunt whales or seals on usual and customary grounds.”

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

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