From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1997:

PORT ALBERNI, B.C.––Economically stressed
by the collapse of the British Columbia salmon industry, and
openly funded in part by Japanese and Norwegian whalers,
the 14-nation Nuu-Chah-Nulth native confederacy
announced in mid-April that it intends to join the Makah tribe
of Neah Bay, Washington, in killing gray whales.
Like the Makah, who live across the Straits of San
Juan de Fuca, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth haven’t killed whales in
more than 70 years. Unlike the Makah, who have the support
of the Clinton/Gore administration in applying for an
aboriginal subsistence whaling quota from the International
Whaling Commission, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth don’t have to
fool with external politics. Since Canada doesn’t belong to
the IWC, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth need only get a permit to kill
whales for “food or social or ceremonial purposes” from the
Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Thus the Nuu-Chah-Nulth could start harpooning
even before the October IWC meeting, if any gray whales
are within target range.
As the Seattle Times explained, “The Nuu-ChahNulth
have been asserting their traditional whaling rights in
negotiations with the Canadian government over sovereignty
and fishing rights.”

The trade-off is simple: if Canada permits the
Nuu-Chah-Nulth to sell whale meat to Japan, under whatever
cultural pretext, maybe the Nuu-Chah-Nulth won’t as
aggressively rile already politically restive non-native fishers.
In March the Nuu-Chah-Nulth embarrassed the DFO by
claiming the 38 seine boats taking advantage of a three-hour
chance to catch roe herring exceeded their quota by 60%.
The DFO in February set the highest commercial
herring quota for the region since 1969, even as the conservationist
Herring Alliance called for a five-year moratorium
on herring fishing to allow the stock to recover. The Herring
Alliance says DFO records obtained under the Canadian
Access to Information law indicate that 10 major herring
spawning areas around the mouth of the Campbell River
have been fished out, with five more threatened. While the
DFO in effect offers fishers herring to offset the loss of
salmon, the Herring Alliance argues that the salmon cannot
recover without herring for food.
The market for roe herring, like the market for
whale meat, is almost entirely in Japan.
“We want to bring back respect to the whaling people
and whaling countries,” says Huu-ay-aht Nation whaling
chief Tom Happynook, who chairs the Port Alberni-based
World Council of Whalers. WCW executive director Matt
Stabler told the Seattle Times that Japan and Norway furnished
about $20,000 of the first-year budget of $100,000.
The WCW is also promoting “aboriginal subsistence” whaling
in coastal Siberia, Indonesia, and St. Vincent. The St.
Vincent whaling industry was expected to die with Athneal
Ollivierre, 76, but Japan supplied a boat to his nephew,
Arson Ollivierre, to enable him to continue the business.
The Japanese and Norwegian strategy is to push the
revival of “traditional” coastal whaling worldwide, to bolster
their own claims before the IWC for “traditional” quotas.
“This is about sushi,” summarizes Lisa Distefano
of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Comments are due May 31 on a proposal to move
gray whales from the Washington state endangered species
list to the “sensitive” list, the lowest order of state protection.
This would help facilitate Makah whaling. The proposal,
entitled Draft Report: Status of the Gray Whale in
Washington, is available at 360-902-2694.
Internationally protected since 1937, gray whales
were pronounced recovered and removed from the U.S.
endangered species list in June 1994. The Makah, who sell
logs to Japan, announced plans to resume whaling almost
immediately, and Mexico authorized development of a salt
works in San Ignacio Lagoon, a protected gray whale calving
area since 1954. The salt works is jointly funded by the
Mexican government and the Mitsubishi consortium.
As many as 21,000 gray whales migrate annually
from the Gulf of California to Alaska, but a parallel population
who formerly migrated from the South China Sea to
waters off Siberia was pronounced extinct in 1991 after 15
years with no reports of carcasses. Japan, however, then
produced carcass reports from 1968 and 1990, and of a live
close sighting in 1982. At least 38 individual gray whales
were photo-identified off the northeast coast of Sakhalin
Island in 1994-1995.

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