Makah take their whaling case to nation’s capital; meetings set today with senators

WASHINGTON – Makah representatives arrived in the nation’s capital on Tuesday to begin three days of meetings regarding Saturday’s unauthorized killing of a gray whale.

Five Makah men – Theron Parker, Andy Noel, Bill Secor Sr., Frank Gonzales Jr. and Wayne Johnson – are under investigation by the National Marine Fisheries Service of breaking federal law by harpooning and shooting a whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Saturday morning.

The Makah Tribal Council has vowed to prosecute those “who took it on themselves to hunt a whale.”

The gray whale was pronounced dead at about 7:15 p.m. on Saturday.

Makah tribal representatives want to assure the state’s congressional delegation that the council did not approve the hunting and killing of the whale.

The tribe has been working toward a waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act so that it can use a treaty right to hunt whales on a subsidence basis.

Tribal Chairman Ben Johnson has said that the whale’s death has hurt the tribe’s case.

Tribal representatives will meet today with Sens. Patty Murray, D-Freeland, and Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, along with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials, said the Makah’s attorney, Tim Lovain.

They also had planned to meet with Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

Dicks represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Additional meetings are set for Thursday and Friday with staff members from both senators and representatives interested in the issue, Lovain said.

Lovain did not name the other senators or the representatives.

Lovain, a former aid to ex-Sen. Slade Gorton and a former Coast Guard officer, is vice president for Denny Miller & Associates Inc., a Washington D.C. law firm whose clients include the Boeing Co., General Dynamics, Todd Pacific Shipyards and the state of Washington.

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