Fisheries Northwest Region 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd. , Suite 1100 Portland, OR 97232 From:Wren Lynberg Re:Makah Request for Waiver of MMPA Moratorium Dear Mr. Stone, After carefully reviewing the available background information on the Makah Indian Tribe’s request for a waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) moratorium against hunting of gray whales, I believe that the waiver by the Makah peoples should be approved.
I agree with the Makah Tribe’s position that their treaty rights, granted to them in the Treaty of Neah Bay (1855), should take precedence over more recently enacted legislation by the United States. Although the treaty should take precedence over the MMPA requirements, the Makah Tribe is making a good faith effort to comply with the federally mandated requirements of the Act. The Makah Indian Tribe has a long history (at least 1500 years) of whaling in the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
This cultural identity is evidenced in their daily life, as well as in substantial archeological material at the Cape Ozette and West Point archeological sites. This whaling culture was so important to the Makah Tribe that they were the only U. S. tribe to insist that they maintained whaling rights and this language was included in their treaty. The tribe is planning on using the whale products exclusively among the tribe members; there is no intent to sell the products for profit.
Whaling is, and has always been, integral to these people and these cultural needs should be respected and not held hostage as the U. S. government asserts its political clout over “modern day” business interests. The Makah have already been granted approval from the International Whaling Commission to maintain a subsistence level of whaling for the tribe-specified in the Waiver Request as 20 whales over 5 years and no more than 5 whales per year. This number also reflects the tribe’s historical harvest of the gray whale.
The Makah Indian Tribe has already complied, with and agreed to comply with, many burdensome requirements from the IWC, the US legal system and your own agency. They have provided several Environmental Impact Statements with regards to their prospective whaling. They have adopted a tribal Management Plan to deal with concerns specific to which whales were eligible to be hunted (not the PFCA whales) and to address hunt safety issues. The gray whale was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1994.
Current population levels are robust enough that allowing the Makah Tribe to pursue their requested “take” of gray whales could not significantly impact the whale population. In fact, enough data exists to suggest that even if all the indigenous peoples (aborigines) on the coast of the Pacific Ocean (Russian and US) hunted to the quota limits allowed by the IWC regulations the gray whale population would still never again be endangered as they were previously when commercial whaling practices decimated them. The tribe has agreed to only hunt in offshore waters.
Most commercial whale watching happens within sight of land. Since no hunting will actually occur in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it is fair to assume there will be little of no impact on the whale watching industry. While the cetaceans are very advanced mammals, there is no proof that the killing of a whale, done in the quantities proposed by the Makah, will change the migratory path of the gray whale. As previously stated, the Makah Tribe has been practicing this type of hunt for over 1500 years and the whales still come twice a year.
I believe this argument to be overstated and without any solid proof, more rhetorical than based on fact. The whales will continue to come to the straights and people will continue to be able to watch them in their natural habitat. Even though there have been many emotional pleas to prevent the whaling by the Makah tribe, I am convinced that the Makah have provided sufficient proof of their intent to only perform subsistence whaling and they should be allowed to enjoy their treaty rights as they were originally agreed.
The Makah Indian Tribe has worked diligently with NOAA, forming several cooperative agreements with the agency to comply with all the concerns and regulations put in their path. The gray whale population is large enough to absorb the impact of whaling on the scale which the Makah intend to carry it out. I believe it is time to grant this waiver and let the Makah Tribe continue with their whaling activities. Sincerely, W. L. Student
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