Coastal Post Online

August 2001

Whale Activists Challenge US Hunt Policy

By Andrew Christie

Activists from six organizations are pleading with the International Whaling Commission to properly address the Makah whale hunting debacle. A definitive ruling on the hunt has never been handed down by the IWC. "This illegal hunt is literally dividing and tearing apart our community," stated Chuck Owens of the Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales, an Olympic Peninsula, Washington-based anti-whaling group. "We think it's time for the US government to have this issue addressed directly, rather than sneak it through."

The US government has unilaterally awarded the Makah a "quota," although the historical record makes clear that a majority of the member nations of the IWC did not consider the Makah hunt to be true aboriginal subsistence whaling, and opposed granting the tribe an aboriginal subsistence exemption to the global whaling ban. The US fashioned its quota request to sidestep this issue.

"Only indigenous people with a continuous, ongoing tradition of whaling have been allowed to continue the practice under the IWC commercial whaling moratorium," said Sea Shepherd Conservation Society information director Andrew Christie. "The US has staked out the untenable position that anybody who used to hunt whales at any time in the past can now start doing so again -- a position with obvious disastrous implications for the whales." In asking the IWC member nations to address the issue at this year's London meeting, activists hope to stem the flood of disinformation and false claims emanating from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency overseeing the Makah hunt. In a recently released Environmental Assessment, NMFS claims they have IWC approval for the hunt. However, Dan Spomer of the Washington Citizens' Coastal Alliance notes that "to date the agency has not been able to produce a single document to corroborate that claim. We've given them every chance to do so, but it is clear that they do not possess any such document. NMFS has decided to deliberately flout both US and international law in forcing this hunt down the throats of the American people for questionable political reasons."

"It really makes you wonder," says Jeff Pantukhoff of the Whaleman Foundation. "Here we are asking for simple clarification on whether the Makah hunt has actually been approved by the IWC, and the US government refuses to allow that to happen. What does that tell you about the legality of this hunt?"

"We have three letters from three different IWC delegates stating that the Makah hunt was never approved," added Sandy Abels of US Citizens Against Whaling. "Yet the media takes the word of National Marine Fisheries Service and perpetuates the lie that the Makah hunt has IWC approval. We demand clarification at the IWC." "What are they afraid of?" asked Jonathan Paul of Ocean Defense International. "The US has claimed for years that the Makah hunt has IWC approval, then they spend the better part of four years doing everything they can to make sure the subject never comes up. It's pretty obvious that the US government has a lot to hide here. The question is, will the media finally start asking the questions necessary to determine if the US is lying or telling the truth?"

"Here's an opportunity for the press to finally determine the truth behind the Makah hunt," stated Tami Drake of Ocean Defense International. "All the players are here. We've had to endure years of lies, deception and silence on this issue. All we are asking is this: Let the IWC speak clearly and decisively- does the Makah hunt have IWC approval or not?"

CONTACT: Andrew Christie, Sea Shepherd (310) 456-1141 [email protected]



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