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History, Law And Environmental Concerns Converge In Case About Makah Tribe’s Whaling Rights




Makah Native Americans show their support in Neah Bay, WA in October for fellow tribe members in their quest to hunt gray whales for the first time in 70 years.
Makah Native Americans show their support in Neah Bay, WA in October for fellow tribe members in their quest to hunt gray whales for the first time in 70 years.
DAN LEVINE/AFP via Getty Images

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The Makah tribe in the Northwest of Washington State hasn’t hunted whales for two decades, but that might change as early as next year.

The Makah are asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act, in a case that pits certain environmentalists against tribal communities; whale protections against tribal sovereignty.

The Makah have argued that, in addition to being deeply culturally and spiritually significant, whaling is a right that was specifically granted in an 1855 treaty in which they ceded 300,000 acres of land to the U.S. They have proposed a plan in which they will hunt two to three Eastern Gray Whales a year, a type of whale that’s in high supply, at specific times during which this whale migrates past the coast.

However, some environmental voices are concerned that endangered whales will inevitably be killed in the hunt, arguing that whale fishing should not be allowed in the modern day and age. The issue is being taken up in an administrative trial, after which the judge will submit a non-binding opinion to NOAA, who will then decide on the exemption.

Today on AirTalk, we hear from the stakeholders. 

Guests:

Patrick Finedays DePoe, councilmember and treasurer of the Makah Tribal Council; the Makah Indian tribe has a population of 2,000 in Neah Bay, in the Pacific Northwest Coast in Washington State     

Catherine Pruett, executive director  and co-founder Sea Shepherd Legal, a public interest environmental law firm focusing on the protection of marine wildlife and habitat