The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled, for the third time, in favor of protecting gray whales! This week, the court denied the Bush Administration's and Makah Indian Tribe's request to reconsider its December 2002 ruling that effectively put a stop to the hunting of whales off the coast of Washington. The government and tribe had asked the court to rehear the case "en banc"–by the full court rather than a panel of judges. In denying this request, the court rejected challenges to its ruling that the federal government, in approving the whale hunt, had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the court stated that it would accept no further requests to reconsider its decision.
The plaintiffs in the case–The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, and other groups and individuals–argued that the government failed to adequately study the ways in which the Makah whale hunt could set a dangerous precedent and adversely affect the environment, especially because the expanded hunt posed an even greater risk to the area's small population of 30 to 50 resident gray whales. The plaintiffs also argued that the government's authorization of the whale hunt violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which generally prohibits whaling, while creating an explicit exemption for Alaskan tribes, but not for the Makah.
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