Makah make legal moves toward regaining whaling rights; activists
reiterate their opposition
NEAH BAY -- The Makah tribe on Monday took a legal step toward regaining its controversial treaty-based right to hunt whales off the North Olympic Peninsula coast.
Makah Chairman Ben Johnson Jr. said the tribe filed a waiver to the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C.
According to a 2001 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Makah can't legally catch any whales until it first receives the waiver from NOAA -- something that has never been granted to anyone before, according to a NOAA official.
For years, the Makah and NOAA have argued that the tribe's 1855 treaty with the U.S. government superseded the tribe's need to acquire the whaling waiver.
Johnson said the tribe is essentially complying with the latest court ruling in order to resume its practice of whaling, which it halted in the 1920s and resumed in May 1999 when tribal members hunted a single gray whale.
``We're going to go through all the hoops and see what happens,'' Johnson said.
Johnson added that he expects the waiver process to take anywhere from three years to five years to complete.
Activists who have long stood against Makah whaling aims reiterated their opposition Monday.
``I feel the Makah tribe is not doing the right thing by applying for a waiver,'' said Dan Spomer, a Sekiu resident and vocal opponent of Makah whaling.
``But they have every right to submit an application.
``I just don't see it going anywhere.''
Chuck Owens of Joyce, co-founder of Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales, expressed similar sentiments.
``We believe the tribe's original plan to harvest whales commercially remains the driving force behind their current whaling intentions,'' Owens said.
``PCPW will continue to oppose this and the current effort to resume
commercial whaling at the international level.''
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