Makah Tribe nearing final answer on bid to hunt whales again

The Makah tribe is one step closer to returning to the water to resume its traditional hunting of gray whales off the coast of Washington.

Late last week, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its final environmental impact statement that recommended the tribe hunt up to 25 whales over the course of 10 years.

It’s a decision the tribe has been awaiting for nearly two decades.

Whaling has long been a central part of Makah culture. Whale hunts and the ceremonies around them are considered spiritual.

The Makah tribe hasn’t successfully hunted a gray whale since May 17, 1999. They had abandoned the practice in the 1920s over their own fears of dwindling numbers, but when they returned to their whaling practices in 1999, the Makah people were met with backlash from animal activists.

That kicked off a series of legal battles that ultimately turned into an administrative process.

The final environmental impact statement reviewed various scenarios, and ultimately showed support for a plan that would require the tribe to request a permit for each individual hunt. Hunts would have to alternate the winter/spring and summer/fall season, to reduce the risk of a specific type of endangered gray whale population that isn’t meant to be included in the waiver.

In the past, Makah Tribal Chairman Timothy Greene has told FOX 13 that not returning to their traditional whale hunts was not an option.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Makah Tribe awaits decision to resume hunting gray whales

"If it’s approval, our next steps means we’re preparing to get out on the water to carry out our traditions, our culture, our spiritual beliefs of who we are as Makah people," said Greene. "If it’s disapproval, then that means we’re going to a different approach so we can get to a place to carry out our whaling activities – that’s not going to go away in our lifetime. Our future generations will carry it on."