Native American Tribe Secures Right To Hunt Gray Whales

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Daily News, Environmental News

Home » Environmental News » Native American Tribe Secures Right To Hunt Gray Whales

After decades of legal and bureaucratic hurdles, the Makah Native American tribe secures the right to hunt Gray whales. The Makah Tribe in Washington has secured approval from the US government to resume whale hunting. This marks the first time in 25 years that the tribe will engage in this traditional practice.

American Tribe Secures Right to Hunt Gray Whales

Historic Decision from NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries recently announced that it would grant the Makah Tribe a waiver. This waiver allows the tribe “a limited subsistence and ceremonial hunt” under an 1855 treaty. The tribe is permitted to hunt up to 25 eastern North Pacific gray whales over the next 10 years.

The Makah Tribe comprises 1,500 people on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. It is the only Native American tribe with a treaty specifically mentioning the right to hunt whales. The tribe has faced over two decades of court challenges.

They have gone through bureaucratic hearings and scientific reviews to resume whale hunting. The decision by NOAA Fisheries grants the tribe a relief under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The act otherwise prohibits harming marine mammals. The tribe will be restricted to hunting two to three whales a year. These hunts will be timed to avoid harming the endangered western North Pacific gray whales sometimes found in the region.

Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, feels that this rule “represents a major milestone”. The measures adopted today honor the Makah Tribe’s treaty rights and their cultural whaling tradition,” she said. Notably, this tradition is 1,000 years old and is fundamental to those people’s identity.

Cultural Significance of Whaling

Whales and whale hunting are vital to Makah culture. The tribe’s website notes that whale hunts require spiritual rituals and ceremonies. This has inspired tribal songs and dances. For the Makah Tribe, whale hunting provides a purpose and discipline that benefits the entire community.

Archeological evidence shows that Makah hunters in cedar canoes killed whales for sustenance from time immemorial. This practice ceased only in the early 20th century after commercial whaling vessels depleted the whale population. The hunts in 1999 were the first time in 70 years the tribe had gone whaling.

We’ve never lost sight of the importance of whales and whale hunting,” said Janine Ledford. She is the executive director of the Makah Cultural and Research Center, to KNKX public radio.

Future Challenges and Considerations

Despite the recent approval, the Makah Tribe will face further hurdles as it seeks to resume hunting. Before a hunt, the tribe must enter into a cooperative agreement with NOAA Fisheries and obtain a permit. This process involves a month-long public comment period.

Animal rights advocates, who have long opposed whaling, could also challenge NOAA’s decision in court. The tribe faced intense protests from activists during its 1999 hunt. After that, lawsuits ultimately put a stop to the event.

As the Native American tribe secures the right to hunt Gray whales, it’s a big development. The tribe remains committed to their cultural traditions and looks forward to overcoming these challenges. The resumption of whale hunting is a significant step in preserving and practicing their cultural heritage.

Also Read: Devastating Forest Fires Ravage Brazil’s Pantanal Wetlands


  • Sarah Tancredi

    Sarah Tancredi is an experienced journalist and news reporter specializing in environmental and climate crisis issues. With a deep passion for the planet and a commitment to raising awareness about pressing environmental challenges, Sarah has dedicated her career to informing the public and promoting sustainable solutions. She strives to inspire individuals, communities, and policymakers to take action to safeguard our planet for future generations.

    View all posts


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Explore Categories