Local Island opposition could resurface if Makah Tribe whale hunt resumes


WATCH: A controversial hunt in the U.S. could be close to returning to the waters near Vancouver Island.    The Makah Tribe wants to resume the harvest of gray whales off the coast of Washington state. The tribe hasn’t hunted in 20 years and it has the support of federal officials. But as Mary Griffin reports, opposition to the hunt could resurface.

Twenty years ago, members of Makah Tribe legally hunted gray whales in the waters off Washington State. Now with the backing of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), they could soon be back hunting again.

“The news today is we’re proposing to waive, to issue the tribe a waiver of those protections so that they can resume some limited hunting of gray whales,” Milstein, a public affairs officer with NOAA.

That waiver would allow the tribe to hunt one to three whales annually for ten years.

In 1999, Anna Hall organized a protest against the gray whale hunt.  She still believes a harvest is an outdated notion.

“We spend our professional lives trying to evaluate and hopefully reduce the human pressures on the wild animal populations. And here we are taking a step in the other direction,” Hall said.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society actively protested the 1999 hunt, and intend to protest again, if needed, said CEO and founder Paul Watson.

“We don’t see any sense in doing this. There is no economic advantage to it. And it would have a profound impact on the gray whale population,” Watson said.

While U.S. officials support the Makah’s request to resume the hunt, Milstein said they acknowledge the conflict it creates.

“People on both sides of the border care much about the whales. And then obviously the tribe has this cultural and social history involving the whales that’s very important to them,” Milstein said.

The hunt is welcome to members of the Makah Tribe, according to council member Patrick DePoe.

“Everybody is on the science level feel that what we’re doing is not going to impact stock, and concerns and we feel this is the way to get out and resume the hunting efforts. We’re excited. Very excited,” DePoe said.

The earliest a hunt would happen is in 2020.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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