Gray Whales Targeted Again; U.S. Government Renews Efforts to Facilitate Makah Whaling

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again must be the
motto of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as it
persists in its effort to facilitate whaling by the Makah tribe
in Northwest Washington.

After its first environmental assessment was declared illegal
by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it prepared a new
assessment and decided to expand Makah whaling
opportunities by allowing the Makah to kill migrating and
resident gray whales and to enlarge the area open to Makah
hunting to include the Strait of Juan De Fuca — a popular
area used by tourists and residents for a variety of
recreational pursuits. In making this startling decision, the
NMFS ignored, among other things, evidence of a significant
decline in gray whale food supplies, an ongoing decline in
gray whale calf births, the unique behaviors of resident gray
whales (a small sub-population of whales who spend their
summers in the northwest Washington area), and threats to
public safety caused by authorizing the use of a
high-powered whale killing weapon in areas where people
live and recreate.

Despite a recently filed lawsuit challenging its new whaling
assessment, NMFS is now preparing a third assessment to
facilitate Makah whaling through 2008. It is expected that
this pending environmental assessment process will be
completed by May 2002 prior to the meeting of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) where the U.S.
government is expected to ask for a quota of dozens of gray
whales for the Makah to kill over the next 5 years. In 1997,
though a majority of IWC member countries rejected the
Makah's claims of a subsistence whaling need, the U.S.
government declared that the IWC approved the Makah
quota and allowed the Makah to resume whaling for the first
time in nearly 75 years.


Mr. Donald Evans

Secretary of Commerce

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20230

Fax: (202) 482-2741


Dr. William T. Hogarth

Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service

1315 East-West Highway, SSMC3

Silver Spring, MD 20910

Fax: (301) 713-2258

When preparing your letter, please ask the government to
do the following:

  1. Rescind its current authorization allowing the Makah to
    potentially kill up to five gray whales, including two resident
    whales, in 2002.

  2. Abandon its efforts to develop a new Environmental
    Assessment to evaluate the impacts of the Makah's gray
    whale slaughter from 2003-2007. If it is unwilling to abandon
    this process, then demand that, unlike previous
    assessments, its new assessment must be unbiased and
    must consider all of the direct, indirect, and cumulative
    environmental impacts associated with Makah whaling.

  3. Terminate any plans to request a gray whale quota for
    the Makah from the IWC, to recognize that the Makah can't
    meet the IWC's aboriginal subsistence whaling standards,
    and to admit that the IWC did not recognize the Makah's
    aboriginal subsistence whaling needs in 1997.

Additional issues that you may want to address in your
letter, include:

  • The substantial decline in gray whale food supplies (up to
    50 percent in some areas according to the scientific
    literature) caused by ocean warming poses a significant and
    immediate threat to gray whales (and other species) that
    should not be ignored by the government.

  • The ongoing decline in gray whale calf counts from 501 in
    1997 to only 87 in 2001 combined with the variety of
    threats to gray whales and their habitat (i.e., bottom
    trawling, ship strikes, entanglements in fishing gear,
    pollution, noise, oil and gas exploration and extraction
    activities) warrants increased protection — not increased
    persecution — of the gray whale.

  • Given our limited knowledge of resident gray whale
    behaviors, ecology, and genetics, this sub-population must
    be fully protected and not subject to inhumane killing by the

  • America must reestablish itself as the world's leading
    anti-whaling government by withdrawing its support for
    Makah whaling and advocating greater protection for all
    whales, including the gray whale.

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