West End: “Resident” gray whales now fair game for Makah

NEAH BAY — Federal officials say the Makah tribe can resume their whale hunts with fewer restrictions on when and where the gray whales can be killed.

A new environmental assessment broadens the hunt to include so-called “resident” whales and increases the Makah’s whaling territory.

Previously limited to the open Pacific, the U.S. government will now allow the tribe to take any gray whale any time of the year and in the calmer, more sheltered Strait of Juan de Fuca — far more convenient and safer to the Makah reservation and its port of Neah Bay.

The assessment determined that the “resident whales” — a small population of gray whales that stays in Northwest waters and doesn’t migrate — are biologically identical to other grays, and that the total population of gray whale is at a historic high, about 26,000 animals.

The decision — hailed by the Makah, loudly denounced by whaling opponents — means the Makah could go out in their hand-hewn cedar canoe “Hummingbird” later this summer and try to harpoon a whale.

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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