PAWS Magazine


Issue 46, Summer 2000


Makah whaling stalled

Hunters from the Makah nation were unsuccessful in their efforts to kill a gray whale during the spring hunting season, and a successful lawsuit by animal advocates has put future attempts to kill gray whales in jeopardy.

In early July, Advocacy Director Will Anderson represented PAWS at the 52nd Annual International Whaling Convention (IWC) held in Adelaide, Australia. Anderson traveled with a five-person delegation that included Makah elder Alberta Thompson and representatives from Ocean Defense International and the Whaleman Foundation to address Makah whaling in Washington’s Olympic Marine Sanctuary. The Makah killed a resident juvenile gray whale in 1999, their first hunt in seventy years. The female whale took at least eight minutes to die after a number of harpoon and anti-tank gun injuries.

As fully accredited non-governmental observers (NGO’s) Anderson and the other animal advocates were given access to commissioners representing thirty-nine countries. “Though our efforts did not result in getting a resolution passed this year, we did effectively lobby over twenty nations,” said Anderson. “We found substantial support for our opposition to the Makah hunt but it was not enough to overcome the political weight of the U.S. delegation that fought us. In fact, each of us was snubbed by not being invited to the U.S. reception, normally open to all U.S. NGOs.”

Anderson and the other non-governmental observers succeeded in getting into the official IWC record seven opening statements from seven different NGOs that condemned the hunt and the way the U.S. avoided IWC scrutiny by getting the Makah gray whale “quota” tacked on to the Russian Inuit quota. Many commissioners, who were angered by this tactic in 1997, remain opposed to the hunt.

Animal advocates also presented two videos on Makah whaling. A PAWS video detailed waste and lack of a Makah presence during the late-night butchering of the whale last year. The second video, produced and distributed by the Whaleman Foundation, was a comprehensive and damning documentation of the history leading up to the actual killing of the gray whale as well as extensive footage of her death.

“PAWS and other organizations will continue hammering away at the corrupt U.S. procedures,” said Anderson, “as well as the persecution of protesters opposed to the hunt.” The Makah “quota” is up for IWC renewal in 2002.

In the meantime, Breech Marine Protection, Australians for Animals and others have won a stunning victory in court. The U.S. government has been ordered to re-write the Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding the Makah whale hunt. There will be opportunities for public comment on the US government’s court-mandated environmental assessment later this year. Updates can be obtained by signing up for the PAWS Actionline by sending an e-mail to The Actionline alerts you to opportunities to help on many issues, including the Makah campaign. Until the EA process is completed, it is expected, but not guaranteed, that the Makah will delay returning to the water at least until the spring of 2001. This year, thus far, the Makah tried nine times to kill a whale, but failed despite the assistance of a powerboat towing their ceremonial canoe.

Unfortunately, disturbing trends were detected by Anderson at the IWC meeting Adelaide. The IWC, created by treaty to “regulate” global whaling, banned commercial whaling in 1986 and has been seen as the vehicle that someday could be used to protect whales instead of killing them. That dream received a serious setback this year when Japan organized opposition using Caribbean countries who receive significant Japanese aid to defeat the Southern Ocean Sanctuary proposal. The proposed sanctuary was the core goal of the whale protectionist NGOs. Additionally, the long fought Revised Management Scheme (RMS), is quickly moving forward. Once the RMS is in place, regulated commercial whaling is likely to begin again world-wide, possibly as soon as 2002.

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