Makah seeking renewed international quota for whale hunt

The Makah are confident that international permission for the tribe to hunt gray whales will be renewed during the annual International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.

However, no new whaling can be done until the tribe also obtains the permission of the U.S. government – which may take two or three more years.

Keith Johnson, president of the Makah Whaling Commission, is one of 15 tribal members attending the four-day IWC meeting that will begin Monday.

Subcommittees of the commission met last week for preliminary discussions.

“I feel confident that we will secure our quota,” he said Saturday.

The tribe, based in Neah Bay, is seeking a renewal of its current whaling quota – 20 whales in five years, with no more than five whales per year – for ceremonial and subsistence purposes.

The Makah is the only tribe in the continental United States with whaling rights written into its treaty.

The Makah last successfully hunted a gray whale in 1999, killing a 30-foot female on May 17.

The hunt was the first in more than 70 years for the tribe, whose whaling tradition reaches back more than 1,000 years.

Whaling quotas for indigenous peoples from the IWC expire after five years.

The Makah’s last quota was approved in 2002.

The international quota is required before the United States can consider approving whaling.

The federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service is now in the process of studying the environmental impact of giving the tribe a waiver from the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The process is expected to take two to three more years, Keith Johnson said.

The tribe requested the waiver in 2005.

No whaling would be done until both the international quota and federal approval are in place, he said.

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