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Despite protests, Indian tribe plans to resume whaling

whale
Five gray whales will be targeted by the Makah tribe  
August 29, 1998
Web posted at: 10:52 p.m. EDT (0252 GMT)

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

NEAH BAY, Washington (CNN) -- For the first time in 70 years, the Makah Indians will be hunting gray whales.

After October 1, the Makah tribe will have the green light to hunt five of the mammoth mammals. But as the date approaches, environmental groups have protested.

Tensions are so high that during the tribe's annual celebration this weekend the Washington governor called out the National Guard just in case there was trouble. The 2,000-member tribe lives on a reservation on the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

But no protesters showed, a relief to many tribal members who say they want to be left alone to observe what they consider a central part of their tribal culture.

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"It's bringing our tradition back and our culture back to our people for our children so they can learn (how) our ancestor did it," one tribe member told CNN.

The International Whaling Commission approved the Makah hunt last year. The commission allows limited whaling by some native groups that can successfully demonstrate that whaling is done for cultural or subsistence reasons, and not for commercial sale of whale meat.

hunters
Canoe-borne Makah practice hunting whales  

But environmental groups also said the Makah, who haven't hunted whales in more than seven decades, can no longer claim to subsist on whale meat.

Critics also say allowing the tribe to kill for cultural reasons and not for subsistence will open the door for Japan and Norway to resume whaling.

"This isn't a hunt that's going to kill just four or five gray whales," said Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. "The repercussions of this will have an effect on tens of thousands of whales that will be killed by the Japanese and Norwegians."

Critics like Watson plan to protest the hunt, but the Coast Guard wants protesters to stay at least 500 yards from hunters.

protesters
Anti-whaling groups plan to protest at the hunt  

Other anti-whaling groups and a Washington congressman who seek to stop the hunt threatened in response to include the Coast Guard in their lawsuit.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has rammed and sunk pirate whaling ships.

On the Makah hunt, the society says it won't go near the canoes. Instead, the group plans to lay down a curtain of sound that will frighten gray whales away from the area.

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