We are updating and reorganizing the “whales”page, so please bear with us.
Makah Whaling Environmental Impact Statement
UPDATE Spring 2017: The National Marine Fisheries Service has not yet finished the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) reportedly because information is continually evolving about the highly endangered Western Pacific Gray Whales who migrate through the area of the proposed Makah gray whale killing and other issues. We are monitoring the agency for updates.
UPDATE March 3, 2015: The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is scheduled to be released in the next two weeks. Along with other environmental organizations, we have signed on to a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service asking the release be delayed until two meetings of scientists are concluded. Those discussions may provide new information that needs to be included in the DEIS.
The environmental impact statement regarding the Makah tribe’s penchant to kill gray whales and perhaps in the not too distant future, humpback whales is expected to be released in late February to early March, 2015. This is a huge project that Green Vegans board members and supporters have undertaken in the past. We will be collaborating with other organizations but this is a major consumer of personal time and funds. We need your support. Updates will be posted in the Whales section below.
Atlantic Humpback Whale / c Will Anderson
Green Vegans is opposing the effort underway to remove the North Pacific humpback whale protections under the Endangered Species Act. As printed in the U.S. Federal Register, “The petition was submitted in April 2013 by the Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition (HFACT) and asks for the identification of North Pacific humpback whales as a distinct population segment (DPS) and a delisting of that DPS under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).” The National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) will conduct a status review and “determine [if] delisting is warranted by April 2014.” There are a number of sub-populations of humpback whales in breeding and foraging areas across the North Pacific. The critical points include whether NMFS is able to distinguish one DPS from the others. Unknown is whether a delisting will open the gate to non-U.S. whalers who either exempt themselves from the current IWC moratorium by granting themselves “research permits” as Japan is notoriously doing or, less likely, whaling on these whales will begin by those nations that do not belong to the IWC.
Most worrisome is the expansion of aboriginal whaling by the Makah tribe in Washington State that has long sought to kill humpback whales in addition to their ongoing effort to kill more gray whales. Aboriginal peoples on the Chukotka Peninsula in Far East Russia, native peoples in Western Alaska, and Pacific Coast Canada are additional possibilities for more whales killed. As for the petitioner that is trying to remove ESA protections for the humpbacks—the Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition—they are also trying to eliminate protective restrictions on bottom fishing in certain Hawaiian waters.
Gray Whale Calf / Baja c Will Anderson
We are focused on two areas of gray whale protection in addition to our activities at the IWC: (a) Makah tribal whaling against a sub-population of 200 genetically distinct Eastern North Pacific gray whales. They are often referred to as the Washington/Southern Vancouver Island (WA/SVI) gray whales. (b) There is a seasonal population of 10 – 12 gray whales, the NPS gray whales, who forage in Northern Puget Sound for a few months and then leave, possibly joining the larger population south of Kodiak Island, Alaska.
On February 14, 2005 the Makah Tribe’s requested a limited waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) take moratorium. The waiver, regulations, and permit would allow the Tribe to resume killing gray whales. Two have been harpooned and shot, one illegally since they addressed the IWC with their request. The U.S. government acted as their agent under treaty obligations. The Tribe made this particular request after the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision in Anderson v. Evans found that the Tribe must comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Since then, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was terminated in 2008 because new evidence came to light about the aforementioned 200 WA/SVI sub-population of gray whales and the discovery that highly endangered Western Pacific gray whales mix with them. Green Vegans will, as it has in the past, make an exhaustive review of and comment on the next DEIS and oppose the hunt.
Northern Puget Sound Gray Whales
For the NPS gray whales, we are researching habitat requirements and possible conflicts with local fisheries, including the spotted shrimp fishery. These gray whales feed extensively in sandy sediments filtering these shrimp and other species through their baleen before consuming them. We will update our last review of scientific research regarding their habitat use and requirements in Washington State as well as British Columbia, Canada where different feeding strategies are employed. Our concern in Washington is that fishing allocations for spotted shrimp and perhaps other species do not sufficiently consider the needs of the NPS gray whales.
International Whaling Commission 2014 (IWC)
The next biennial International Whaling Commission (IWC) Meeting will be held 15-18 September, 2014 at the invitation of the Government of Slovenia, on the Adriatic coast at Portoroz. The sub-committee meetings will take place from 11-14 September. As in 2012, Green Vegans intends on sending an experienced three-person team for a week of on-site work. Of the three Green Vegans representatives, this will be our second, fourth, and ninth IWC meeting. This is our most expensive campaign. See our 2012 report for background. The biennial IWC meeting is a high-level, government-to-government convention that saves more, or kills more whales depending upon which side wins the votes. As of July, 2013, there were 88 nations registered to the convention. There are no other vegan environmental organizations represented. As a repeat, registered organization, Green Vegans has access to lobby the national delegations who operate at the State Department level. When they vote to save whales and create whale sanctuaries, Earth’s whales are saved. Progress in this forum is never easy. Though we will hold a separate fundraising event for this campaign, please pledge now. Most effective now would be a matching-grant donation.
Lolita is a captive orca whale held in the smallest pool in the U.S. Green Vegans board members have experience in this issue, its own scientific advisers, and long-term working relationships with the people leading the effort to free her. This is a large, capitol-intensive campaign. There are capable organizations who will work together but lack the funding to get Lolita back to the Washington State waters of her birth and her sub-pod, L25. If you have any doubts about the value of this campaign, we recommend the movie Blackfish and the book Death at SeaWorld. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Eastern North Pacific Gray Whales are under increasing pressure as their habitat changes drastically due to global warming and human activities both on and offshore. On July 14, 2010, Green Vegans petitioned the state of Washington to list as endangered approximately 200 gray whales that have been identified recently as being genetically unique. A new scientific publication recommended these whales, “the 200,” be treated as a distinct population segment (DPS) which in the U.S. can be the basis for a finding of endangered species protections even though the larger population of the species remains “non-endangered.” Thirteen national and regional organizations signed on endorsing our petition. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) responded with a denial to our petition on the last possible day, citing their interpretation of state statutes with which we disagree. They are, in our view, applying the law arbitrarily and inconsistently when viewed from their past actions. The Makah tribe has already killed one of them.
Green Vegans is studying a legal review of the state’s response. In the meanwhile, we have responded to the state’s denial and have now requested the agency to conduct a species status review which they were supposed to do by year 2002. Without protections specific to this population, if the department continues with its current interpretation of the statutes, then all 200 hundred of these whales could be lost to habitat destruction, vessel traffic, oil spills, and lack of protections unique to their needs without sparking an uplisting to threatened or endangered. This would eliminate nearly every gray whale who spends a significant time in state waters and fills a specific ecological niche essential for healthy state marine ecosystems.
UPDATE: Toni Frohoff, Ph.D., a scientist who serves on our board of advisors, notified us of a recent article from New Scientist magazine. It describes how mathematical and genetic modeling of the gray population indicates these 200 whales we are campaigning to protect are the remnants of a once larger population that responded to the last ice age by feeding differently and not migrating to the then frozen northern latitudes where they originally foraged.
UPDATE: Though the State of Washington has declined to up-list the 200 or so gray whales who most frequently inhabit state waters, we will continue our efforts to gain protections. Of special interest in the 2014-2015 campaign year are conflicts with fisheries, specifically spot shrimping in gray whale foraging areas. More information in 2014 campaign plans.