Makah Tribe Set To Resume Whaling



Dear Friend of the Whales,
In 1995, all of the crew onboard the conservation ship Edward Abbey were privileged to meet a young, friendly whale we named Buddy. Buddy is a resident Gray whale off Cape Flattery, Washington, who feeds along the cliffs there year-round. Soon, Buddy may be blasted to death against those cliffs, near the reservation at Neah Bay. We cannot let this happen. This letter is going to be short and to the point. This is the call to action you have been waiting for.

You and I both know where we stand on this issue, or you wouldn't be reading this. This is not an abstract environmental issue being debated by scientists and politicians thousands of miles away. This slaughter will happen in Washington state waters! Once whales are killed there, the status of the U.S. as a whale-protecting nation will be fatally compromised. Global whaling will begin again in late 1998 because the United States ‹now a whale-killing nation - cannot oppose other countries if they, too, decide to kill whales. You know what that means for the Gray whales, which now number only in the thousands: They will become extinct in our lifetime. Once again, the great Blue whale, the Humpback and Orca will be slaughtered without mercy - for sushi.

The Federal government is subsidizing this hunt with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Coast Guard is being used to support it. The Makah Nation is devoting its own considerable reserves to the effort of breaching the last legal defenses for marine mammals in the U.S.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society made a commitment to the defense of these creatures more than 20 years ago, and we will keep that commitment. We have established the Whale Guardians Network so that citizens can help protect the whales from hunting initiatives that are now proliferating in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and Canada.

It is no longer enough to keep talking about saving whales. We need to act now. The only people who can stop this are the people who really care.

I'm sorry to be blunt, but this is simply what the situation is. The time has come. Sea Shepherd is going to be on the water with every vessel we have. We need you to keep our ships running. And these whales need you. You can help in two ways: Through your donation of time, and your donation of money to keep our ships on the scene.

We don't send out millions of generic "direct mail" solicitations that seek to use an issue in order to raise funds - if you've been following the news, you know this is a project we are deeply committed to. The clock is ticking. Time is running out. We need you now.

For the Whales,
Lisa Distefano, Expedition Leader,
Gray Whale Protection Campaign

In May of 1994, Dave Sones, Fisheries Director for the Makah Indian Tribe of Western Washington state, won a five-year battle to remove the Western Pacific Gray whale from the U.S. endangered species list. (In pressing for the de-listing of the Gray whale, the Makah's lobbyists asserted that this move was "aimed not at allowing the hunting of gray whales but so that research money can be shifted to other species in need of monitoring, such as salmon or marine birds.") The Makah are the only Native American tribe to have reserved the right of killing whales by treaty.

On May 2, 1995, the Makah signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a new breakwater and improvements to their marina. The environmental impact study they submitted listed fishing, tourism, and whale watching as the reasons for the improvements. Three days later, after five state and federal agencies committed to funding the new marina complex, the Makah informed the Department of Commerce of their intention to hunt whales.

There are several problems with the Makah proposal, other than the prospect of whales once again being killed within the waters of the continental United States.

First, no Makah has hunted a whale since 1926 and no living person can teach traditional whaling methods. (The Makah have purchased and propose to use military .50-caliber assault rifles - the same weaponry mounted in attack helicopters).

Second, the Makah's intention to land five whales per year means they may strike and mortally wound up to 20 whales in the effort to land five. Finally, the Makah's bid has opened the door to whaling by every Indian band on the coast of British Columbia (the B.C.-based World Council of Whalers received $20,000 in startup money from Norway and Japan in 1996), over a dozen of whom have expressed their intention to press for rights to kill Gray whales, Orcas, and Humpbacks as an extension of their fishing treaties should the Makah receive final authorization from the International Whaling Commission and U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. If the U.S. succeeds in allowing the Makah to kill whales, it will effectively undermine the integrity of the United States' whale protection stance in the IWC.

The prospect of commercial whaling and the millions of dollars to be made from the black market trade in whale meat in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan is more than likely to overcome assurances of "local consumption only" and "ceremonial use" by the Makah, who have already established a lucrative sea urchin and sea cucumber trade with the Japanese. The crucial passage in the formal proposal of the Makah to the U.S. State Department and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the explicit statement that "...We have a harvest whales not only for ceremonial and subsistence purposes but also for commercial purposes." (Tribal council chairman Hubert Markishtum, May 5, 1995). On May 25, 1995, a Seattle Times columnist reported that Makah fisheries manager Dave Sones told him "The tribe hopes in the future to do some commercial whaling. There are markets overseas for the meat and oil. The value of a Gray whale is estimated at a half-million dollars."

The Makah have said they do not believe they need the authorization of the International Whaling Commission to resume whaling, but have sought that permission as a courtesy to the U.S. government. In 1996, concerted international opposition at the IWC denied them that permission and turned back their bid to breach the global ban on non-subsistence whale hunting.

In October 1997, the Makah tribe again approached the International Whaling Commission with a request to kill Gray whales, and despite broad opposition and criticism from the majority of other nations present, the United States managed to employ a deceptive strategy - "trading" five Bowhead whales from their Alaskan Eskimo quota for four Gray whales from the Russian government, who receive a quota of 120 Gray whales per year for Russian Chukchi Eskimos. The quota trade did nothing to qualify the Makah tribe to hunt whales, as they cannot demonstrate a "subsistence need" under the rules of the IWC. But through this "horse trading" the United States has proclaimed the Makah may now kill Gray whales. The Makah anticipate killing their first whale in the fall of 1998.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society believes that the conditions that allowed the Makah a subsistence whaling clause in a 1855 treaty do not pertain more than 140 years later. The Makah must not be allowed to strike or kill a California Gray whale, and we will do everything possible to protect the Gray whales from Makah riflemen.

The whaling clause in the their 1855 treaty is superseded by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling -They do NOT have a "subsistence need" for whale meat -They do NOT have an "unbroken tradition" of whaling -There is no such thing as a "cultural whaling need" - if the U.S. administration and the Makah succeed in establishing such a precedent, no whale will be safe within 200 miles of any coastline in the world.

Write to:
    William Daley, Secretary of Commerce, 1315 East West Hwy., Silver Springs, MD 20190-3232, Phone 202-482-6076.
    Mary Beth West, Deputy Asst. Secretary for Oceans & Environmental Affairs, Department of State, 2201 C. Street NW, Washington, DC 20510, Phone 202-647-2396, Fax 202-647-0217.     Makah Tribal Council, P.O. Box 115, Neah Bay, WA 98357, Phone: 360-645-2788.
    The Hon. Jim Buck, House of Representatives ,406 John L. O'Brien Bldg., Olympia, WA 98504-0600.
    The Hon. Slade Gorton, U.S. Senate, Washington DC 20510, Phone: 202-224-3441.
    The Hon. Patricia Murray, U.S. Senate, Washington DC 20510, Phone 202-224-2621, Fax 202-224-0238.

Write to the President, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and your Congressional representative. Advise them that you expect the United States to stand firm to maintain the moratorium on whaling - whether its violators are the governments of Japan, Norway, or Canada, or U.S. native tribes.
    President Bill Clinton, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C. 20500, Phone (202) 456-1111, FAX (202) 456-2461.
    Will Daley, Administrator NOAA, Herbert C. Hoover Bldg., Room 5128, 14th & Constitution Ave., NW Washington D.C. 20230 ,Phone (202) 482-2112, Fax (202) 482-2741.

To determine the names & telephone numbers of your Representative, call (202) 224-3121.

If you would like to volunteer, or need more information, please contact the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society at P.O Box 628, Venice, CA 90294. Phone (310) 301-SEAL or Fax (310) 574-3161. Check out their website at

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