Action but no whaling––yet

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1998:

NEAH BAY, Washington– – Makah
Tribal Council plans to kill grey whales
appeared in disarray in mid-November––but the
hunt was still definitely on, Makah Whaling
Commission president Keith Johnson told
increasingly skeptical media.
“Instead of engaging its first whale in
70 years,” Seattle Times reporter Lynda V.
Mapes wrote on November 9, “the tribe has
only tangled with whaling opponents and the
press. Instead of answering questions about the
hunt, the tribe is being grilled about arrests by
tribal police of whaling protesters on November
1. Tribal members are asked why their youngsters
threw rocks at nonviolent whaling protesters.
And they are questioned about their police
chief’s fitness for duty.”

The Seattle Times, owned by the
Korean fundamentalist evangelist Sun Mying
Moon, had editorially backed the Makah––but
like other media who initially saw the tribe as
hardpressed underdogs, backed away after the
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on October
23 disclosed two documents obtained from the
National Marine Fisheries Service under the
Freedom of Information Act three days earlier,
which seemed to confirm the longstanding Sea
Shepherd allegation that the Makah Tribal
Council may be pursuing a “cultural” hunt of
grey whales on behalf of the Japanese and
Norwegian whaling industries.
The first item was an e-mail message
from Michael Tillman, then deputy commissioner
at the Southwest Fisheries Science
Center of the National Marine Fisheries
Service, to six other NMFS staffers, dated
April 3, 1995.
“The Makah legal representative,
John Arum, was referred to me on March 23
(1995) to discuss the Makah’s position,”
Tillman wrote. “I described the International
Whaling commission’s aboriginal subsistence
procedure, and indicated that the Makah would
have to develop a similar needs request…
Maggie (NMFS staffer Margaret Hayes)
informed me that Arum told her that Japanese
interests had approached the Makah about selling
whale meat to them. So I wasn’t surprised
when he asked me generally about commercial
sale. I indicated that this would not be legal
under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.”
The second document was a memo
issued on April 27, 1995, by NMFS staffer
Robert Brownell to Tillman, titled “Notes from
the discussion of treaty rights during the April
1995 Pacific Scientific Review Group
Recounting a presentation by
Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission biologist
Terry Wright, Brownell wrote, “The
Makah intend to harvest grey whales (starting
in 1995), harbor seals (5 already taken),
California sea lions, minke whales, small
cetaceans such as harbor porpoise and Dall’s
porpoise, and potentially in the future, sea
otters. The Makah are planning to operate a
processing plant so as to sell to markets outside
the U.S. The Makah have started discussions
with Japan and Norway about selling their
whale products to both countries. The plant
could be used to process the catches of other

tribes as well. The Makah and other tribes intend to reduce
local populations of harbor seals to one half to one third of current
population levels to about the 1980 levels within five
years. There would be no limit placed on catches of California
sea lions because it is believed that the sea lions are transiting
through the area.”
Explained Michael Kundu, Pacific Northwest coordinator
for the Sea Shepherds, “One week later, Makah Tribal
Council chair Hubert Markishtum sent a formal proposal to the
U.S. State Department and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, notifying them of the Makah
proposal to re-establish ‘a ceremonial and subsistence whale
hunt’ as ‘a catalyst which would allow us to instill in our young
people the traditional values which have held our people
together over the centuries.”
Commented Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson,
“The true nature of the Makah’s proposed ‘cultural’ whale hunt
is now beyond dispute. This is the wedge to open up a future
large-scale factory killing enterprise, and the Makah’s partners
in the federal government knew it.”
With three years of active assistance and $335,000 in
funding from NMFS and other federal agencies, the Makah
eventually were allocated a share of a “subsistence” whaling
quota issued by the IWC to indigenous whalers in Siberia and
Alaska. But the allocation was not actually made by the IWC.

Court lets Makah proceed
On September 21, U.S. District Judge Franklin
Burgess, of Tacoma, rejected a lawsuit brought by federal
Representative Jack Metcalf (R-Washington) and various other
whaling opponents who contend that the manner in which the
authorization was granted is illegal.
Notwithstanding that ruling, the Sea Shepherds on
October 13 pledged to withdraw from protest of the Makah
whale hunt if either “the Makah Tribal Council or the U.S. government
can produce a document stating that the IWC has
approved a Makah aboriginal take of gray whales.”
The Sea Shepherd pledge was distributed to media
with a copy of a letter from IWC secretary Ray Gambrell confirming
that the IWC never issued any such approval.
One day later, 27 organizations opposing the Makah
whaling formally asked media to take note that “the U.S. has
unilaterally recognized the Makah claim,” in departure from
“the procedure followed for every previous aboriginal subsistence
whaling claim.”
On October 24 the Sea Shepherds followed up by distributing
a “Statement on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling”
from the Australian delegation to the 1997 IWC meeting.
“It is the formal position of the Australian delegation,
as the movers of the successful amendment,” which the U.S.
contends authorized the Makah hunt, “that the IWC itself is the
only body competent to grant recognition” to an aboriginal
susistence whaling quota. “Claims that the passage of the
schedule amendment constitute an acceptance or recognition by
the IWC of the validity of the Makah claims are false.”
The only Americans previously authorized to kill
whales during the IWC moratorium are members of tribes
belonging to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission––whose
“subsistence” hunts have so far in 1998 killed 34 highly endangered
bowhead whales. The northern bowhead population is
conventionally estimated at an aggregate 7,500, but some
regional subpopulations may number in the low hundreds.
Recent discoveries about the extreme longevity of bowhead
whales, and their slow rates of growth and reproduction, have
called the whole IWC population model into question.
The Makah claim their right to kill grey whales was
guaranteed by a portion of an 1855 treaty which read, “The
right of taking fish and of whaling or sealing at usual and
accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said
Indians in common with all citizens of the United States.”
Since other U.S. citizens no longer may hunt whales
or seals, however, Watson and other opponents contend that
the Makah are also not allowed to.

Canoe out of water
As of November 10, more than a month into the time
frame allocated to the Makah Tribal Council by the National
Marine Fisheries Service to kill up to five grey whales, the
eight-member canoe whaling team and speedboat escort still
hadn’t ventured out of Neah Bay, Washington, except for
occasional exercise, photo opportunities, and to engage in
wars of nerves with the Sea Shepherds, whose vessels T h e
S i r e n i a n and Sea Shepherd II have stood by since midSeptember.
The canoe had reportedly only been in the water
half a dozen times since September 29.
After November 1, all grey whales in the area were
considered migratory, as opposed to “resident,” and were
therefore potential targets according to the NMFS guidelines.
Representatives of 21 other Washington tribes were invited to a
weekend celebration on November 1-2 which was widely
expected to mark the start of the serious hunt. Instead,
November 1 brought an altercation, when anti-whaling Makah
elder Alberta Thompson, 74, invited Sea Shepherd international
director Lisa Distefano to dinner. When Distefano
stepped from a Sea Shepherd motorized dinghy to the Neah
Bay dock, members of a Makah mob pushed her into the
water, dragged the dinghy onto the dock, damaged and confiscated
it, and stoned Sea Shepherd volunteer Matt Lawson and
photographer Jan Cook, all as TV cameras rolled and Makah
tribal police stood by. Distefano, Lawson, Cooper, and
another Sea Shepherd volunteer, Kent Nichols, were taken
into custody. Their none-too-gentle handling left Nichols with
a gashed forehead. That also made it to TV newscasts.
Thompson’s home was later reportedly pelted with
eggs and firecrackers. Thompson herself was in California for
a speaking engagement, she said upon her return. Distefano
and Seattle attorney Helga Kahr had claimed Thompson was
“in protective custody with people who care about her.”
Either way, Makah spokespersons confirmed that
Thompson might be at physical risk in Neah Bay. Makah
police chief Lyle Ahdunko spoke of charging her with inciting
a riot. This gave the Sea Shepherds a chance to open their files
on Ahdunko.
“Ahdunko was convicted of perjury in 1992, and a
1997 police investigation found him guilty of falsifying a
police report,” a Sea Shepherd release disclosed on November
4. “While Ahdunko was chief of police for the Washoe Tribe
of Nevada and California in 1997, the Washoe Dresslerville
Community Council requested emergency police protection
from Ahdunko’s tribal officers. In a letter to the Bureau of
Indian Affairs, the council told BIA, ‘We are compelled to
take this action due to reports that some Dresslerville community
residents are arming themselves for protection against the
Washoe Tribal Police.”
There was also “a restraining order issued against
Ahdunko in a domestic violence case in which he beat his girlfriend
with his service revolver,” the Sea Shepherds said.

Waiting game
Through October, the Makah strategy seemed to be
to wait out the public attention span and exhaust protester
resources. It didn’t appear to be working. “In six years of
working here, I have never received more major U.S. media
requests for information,” Sea Shepherd office manager Carla
Robinson told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Among interim developments, at request of the
Makah and Clallam County sheriff’s department, Washington
governor Gary Locke sent 800 National Guard troops to Neah
Bay to prevent disruption by activists during the late August
“Makah Days” festival––though no organization opposing the
whale hunt planned to be there. The deployment reportedly
cost taxpayers $751,295, bringing the total known U.S. government
investment in encouraging the Makah to kill whales to
approximately $1.1 million.
The only whaling-related action of note that week
came when the Makah seniors’ center fired Alberta Thompson,
a longtime staffer, for allegedly calling Paul Watson on the
senior center telephone. Thompson denied the allegation.
The Sea Shepherds on September 11 invited the FBI
and NMFS to station agents aboard the Sea Shepherd II for the
duration of the campaign.
Fisheries Canada spokesperson Diane Lake on
September 29 warned the Makah to keep their activities out of
Canadian waters. “If the Makah hunters come into Canadian
waters,” she said, “we will treat them as illegal fishers.”
Thirteen British Columbia tribal bands have
expressed interest in whaling––if the Makah get away with it.
They don’t have to worry about getting IWC permission
because Canada does not belong to the IWC, but would have
to get Canadian federal permission.
On October 6, the Sea Shepherds scrambled in
response to a false alarm that the Makah had killed a resident
juvenile grey whale. The Sea Shepherds eventually decided
that this and a second false alarm originated from the Makah,
possibly in an attempt to discover Sea Shepherd tactics.
The false alarms came amid a series of encounters
among the Makah whalers, NMFS personnel, and Sea
Shepherd crew members, who repeatedly accused each other
of harrassment, and of harrassing whales.
On October 21, after the Coast Guard relayed repeated
complaints from the Makah, the Sea Shepherds agreed to
quit firing a replica Civil War cannon mounted on the foredeck
of the Sirenian.

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