Indian tribe gets OK to resume whaling
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October 23, 1997
Web posted at: 9:28 p.m. EDT (0128 GMT)
MONACO (CNN) -- The International Whaling Commission Thursday
approved a controversial proposal to allow native groups in
Siberia, Alaska, and Washington State to resume hunting gray
The Makah Indians, a 2,000-member tribe who live on the tip
of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, lobbied with U.S.
government support to resume whaling after a seven-decade
halt of what they consider a central part of
The Makah had petitioned for approval to hunt five whales a
year; the IWC granted permission for an annual take of four
Inuit tribes in Alaska and Chukchi natives along the Siberian
coast of the Bering Sea will also split a take of up to 120
gray whales. The whales, which migrate annually between the
Arctic and Baja California, have been upgraded
from "endangered" to "threatened" status in recent years as a
result of a ban on commercial killing of gray whales enacted
in the 1930s.
The commission is also expected to renew an ongoing request
for a small take of bowhead whales, an animal native to the
Arctic that remains highly endangered.
The IWC allows limited whaling by some native groups that can
successfully demonstrate that whaling is done for cultural
and subsistence reasons, and not for the commercial sale of
The IWC's annual meeting this week will also consider
proposals to continue hunting of the minke whale by Japan and
Norway. The minke is the only large whale species that has
not been severely reduced or endangered by overhunting in the
Whaling by U.S. Indians opposed
Environmental groups and some of Washington's traditional
allies such as Australia and New Zealand argued that the
Makah, who have not hunted whales in more than 70 years, can
no longer claim to subsist on whale meat.
They also criticized the United States for twinning its
request with that of the impoverished Chukchi Inuit of
Siberia, known in Russia as the Chukchi, and insisted on
amending the final text to state that the quota was for
natives whose subsistence needs had been recognized.
"The United States does believe the Makah meet the
requirements," U.S. delegate Will Martin told reporters.
"When the commission adopted the quota, they gave tacit
recognition of the underlying need," he said.
New Zealand Commissioner Jim McLay said he believed natives
should hunt whales "only when a need has been recognized, not
just put forward. I don't feel the Makah case has been made."
Indian whaling defended
IWC officials said the organization did not pass judgment
on the Makahs' claim, neither recognizing it, nor rejecting
it. "Our main concern remains the responsibility and
viability of the (whale) stocks," said IWC chairman Peter
"Who takes them is really up to the people interested," he
"This is one of those splendid compromises where people can
put their own interpretations," said one delegate. He said it
also avoided making a precedent.
Other delegates said they were confident that the Makahs'
claim would be put to a harder test in the United States.
Many U.S. politicians oppose the government's decision to
seek a quota and environmental groups are challenging it in
Reuters contributed to this report.