Peninsula: Will Makah decision threaten local whales?

NEAH BAY — Will Buddy the “resident” gray whale be a target for a Makah harpoon?

A new federal environmental assessment now allows the Makah to hunt not only migrating gray whales off the coast but also the so-called “resident whales” that feed near Neah Bay.

It also increases the tribe’s hunting territory from the open Pacific off the coast into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

But deciding whether to hunt the local gray whales will be a political hot potato for the tribe as it works out a new whaling management plan — the rules of the hunt — with the U.S. government.

There are no indications yet what the tribal whaling officials will decide, though “the elimination of the seasonal and area restrictions . . . (will allow) our whaling crews to hunt as dictated by cultural need, and not be burdened by unnecessary regulations,” says Janine Bowechop, Makah Cultural and Research Center director.

But it’s a sticky situation, especially since whaling protesters have turned the local whales into a symbol of opposition to the Makah whaling.

The huge, 30- to 40-ton animals have names like Buddy and are treated almost like pets by local whale-watchers.

Full details appear in today’s edition of the Peninsula Daily News. Click onto “Subscribe” to have your PDN delivered to your home or office.

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