Panama City, Panama: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has unfortunately approved a request by the United States for an aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW) quota for the Makah Tribe of Northwest Washington State. Pursuit of this quota by the United States represents a waste of time, taxpayer dollars and federal employee time, given the fact that it has been nearly 90 years since the tribe has demonstrated any subsistence need for the whales, and such hunts have been ruled off limits by a federal appeals court.
The American Cetacean Society, Animal Welfare Institute, Campaign Whale and Green Vegans condemn the quota approval. They contend that the Makah tribe—which has only killed one whale legally (in 1999) since the mid-1920s—does not qualify for an aboriginal subsistence whaling quota since it does not have a continuing traditional dependence on whales and whaling, as is required by the IWC. Nevertheless, by purposefully combining its Makah quota request with a Russian gray whale quota, as well as quotas for other stocks and countries, the US has succeeded in obtaining the Makah quota even though, if addressed independently, it would likely fail.
“If the Makah had a legitimate need for whales and a continuing traditional dependence on whaling, the US would not have had to hide behind its own bowhead quota request or the Russian request to obtain its gray whale quota,” said Will Anderson of Green Vegans.
Since 2003, a federal appeals court has barred the US from allocating an Eastern North Pacific gray whale quota to the Makah tribe, pending compliance with domestic legal requirements, including the National Environmental Policy Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“Not only did the US act prematurely in seeking the quota but there is no guarantee that the US will ever again allow the Makah to engage in whaling given the potential threat of the hunt to genetically unique resident gray whales and critically endangered Western gray whales,” explains Susan Millward, Executive Director of AWI.
The groups strongly condemn this misappropriation of federal funds and undermining of the ASW quota system. The willingness on the part of the United States to promote hunts that are undeniably not of an aboriginal subsistence nature undermines the legitimacy of the ASW quota system—a system established to allow for true subsistence needs to be met, not open the window to additional, pointless slaughter of whales.