Makah Files for Waiver to Hunt Whales

After failing in its efforts to get its whale hunt exempted from the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Alaskan tribe has decided to take a new tack and comply with the MMPA by filing a request for a waiver under the MMPA.

The Makah tribe’s 1855 treaty with the United States allows it to hunt whales, but the tribe voluntarily abandoned the practice early in the 20th century. About six years ago it began hunting whales again, and members of the tribe managed to kill a whale in 1999.

After a series of lawsuits by animal rights activists, however, federal courts ruled that the Makah needed to comply with the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Last June the Makah lost an appeal in the matter and apparently rather than go on to a higher court have decided to comply with the MMPA and file a request for a waiver to kill a small number of whales.

In February the Makah filed a 55 page application with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requesting a waiver. This is likely a long, uphill effort as apparently such a waiver has never been granted for hunting whales since the MMPA went into effect in 1972. The state of Alaska and a North Carolina company are the only two entities who have apparently ever applied for a waiver, and both withdrew the waiver request before the request had reached the approval stage.

On the other hand, the NOAA is emphatically behind the Makah’s right to hunt a small number of whales. NOAA spokesman Brian Gorman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that,

The bottom line is, we support the tribe’s treaty right to hunt whales. [But] It’s going to be a long process. I don’t think anyone is fooling themselves about that. We have to take this very carefully. There’s almost a certainty that we’ll be sued.

Animal rights activists are likely to make an argument that the Humane Society of the United States was already hitting — since no one has ever received an exemption under the MMPA to hunt whales, granting the Makah such an exemption would set a dangerous precedent. The HSUS’ Naomi Rose told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,

This could absolutely be precedent-setting. If they win (a waiver to the law), it’s not just the Makah that will be impacted. This will lay the ground rules for anyone who tries to seek an exception to go whaling in the future. So yes, we’ll definitely dog the process.

While the waiver application is wending its way through the approval process, the NOAA will be simultaneously conducting an environmental impact study, which is required by the MMPA. I don’t think the issue is whether or not the NOAA will approve the waiver. The NOAA clearly believes that the small number of whales the Makah plan to take won’t come close to harming the gray whale population. The long-term issue will be whether or not such approval can survive the inevitable lawsuits.


Makahs will seek whaling waiver. Lewis Kamb, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 14, 2005.

Activists Complain about Dolphins Used During War in Iraq

CNSNews.Com ran an interesting article in March about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ opposition to the U.S. Navy’s use of mine-detecting dolphins.

Writer Marc Morano interviewed PETA’s Stephanie Boyles who characterized the Navy’s use of the dolphins as “just ridiculous.” She told Morano,

These are animals that, number one, have not volunteered to take part in this whatsoever. Number two, they are being put in harm’s way . . . when they don’t even know they are in harm’s way.

There have been already enough victims in this world. We don’t have to start adding other species to it.

Boyles goes on to assert that although the dolphins do not realize “they are in harm’s ways” this does not mean that the dolphins don’t have a mind of their own,

Why are we spending time trying to train animals that have lives and minds of their own to try and carry out these tasks for us? That just seems a little archaic, not to mention unreliable.

. . .

They have mind of their owns; they don’t realize the tasks they are being taught to perform are life and death. And when they don’t perform correctly, human lives will be lost. [The dolphins] think this is a game and yet the risk to their lives and the amount of suffering they may endure is great, and we don’t seem to care about that.

Meanwhile Humane Society of the United State marine biologist Naomi Rose offered a more moderate approach to the dolphin issue saying it was “concerned about the welfare” of the dolphins, but stopped short of opposing their use for mine detection. Rose told Morano,

As we have in the past, we will continue to express our concerns to the Navy and Congress about the military use of marine mammals, but while the war continues, we remain focused on the welfare of all those in the combat zone — human and animal.

But it was left to Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy to state the obvious point that animal rights activists always fail to grasp,

My personal priority would be to save human lives and most especially American lives. If the dolphins can do so, hopefully at minimal risks to themselves and at great benefit to us, that seems to me to be a proper rendering of the priorities.

According to a UPI story about the program, the use of dolphins to detect mines goes back to Vietnam era. The dolphins are trained to drop a buoy near a suspected mine, which divers then inspect and detonate any mines they find.

The Navy has never released statistics on how effective the dolphins are at locating mines, but UPI quoted a retired Naval officer who helped create the dolphin program as saying that the dolphins are actually more effective than the mine sweeping ships and typically locate 99.8 percent of mines in tests.


Dolphins Did Not ‘Volunteer’ for War, Animal ‘Rights’ Activists Say Marc Morano, CNSNews.Com, March 26, 2003.

Animal Tales: Dolphins do duty in wartime Alex Cukan, UPI Science News, March 28, 2003.