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As Makah press for new waiver to resume the whale hunt, public is invited to comment

In this May 17, 1999 file photo, two Makah whalers stand atop a dead gray whale, moments after helping tow it to shore in the harbor at Neah Bay, Wash. Earlier in the day, Makah Indians took it in their first hunt since opting out 70 yrs. earlier.
Elaine Thompson
/
The Associated Press
In this May 17, 1999 file photo, two Makah whalers stand atop a dead gray whale, moments after helping tow it to shore in the harbor at Neah Bay, Wash. Earlier in the day, Makah Indians took it in their first hunt since opting out 70 yrs. earlier.

A little less than a month remains for public comment on a proposal to allow the Makah Indian Tribe to resume its hunt for gray whales.

The Makah have been waiting for decades to exercise their treaty right to whaling, which is codified in the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay. They resumed their hunt briefly in the spring of 1999, taking one whale, but then stopped because of international lawsuits. Now they're asking to take roughly two to three whales per year over the next decade, in Washington's coastal waters.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed a waiver be granted under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Act seeks to protect all marine mammals in U.S. waters from lethal activities.  

In November, an administrative law judge with the U.S. Coast Guard, George J. Jordan, heard testimony for a full week from advocates for and opponents of the waiver.

Transcripts of those hearings are now available and the public is invited to comment, before the judge makes his recommendation to the head of NOAA fisheries.

Animal rights activists object and say the risk of a hunt is too great; members of the tribe say it is essential to reviving their culture.

The comment period closes on March 16.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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