US gray whale hunt EA available (fwd)

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Date: Mon Jul 23 2001 - 08:33:16 EDT

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Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2001 09:42:27 -0700
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Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: US gray whale hunt EA available (fwd)

[Federal Register: July 19, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 139)] [Notices]
[Page 37641-37642] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Marine Mammals: Environmental Assessment on Allocating Gray Whales to the
Makah Tribe for the years 2001 and 2002

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: NMFS announces the availability of an Environmental Assessment
(EA) that examines the environmental consequences of issuing the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) quota for gray whales to the Makah
Tribe for the years 2001 and 2002. NMFS has identified a preferred
alternative in the EA that will grant the Makah Tribe the IWC quota of
five whales per year with restrictions that would allow a limited hunt on
the gray whale summer feeding aggregation.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the EA may be obtained over the Internet at under ``New Arrivals.''
Copies of the EA may also be requested by writing to Gale Heim, NOAA/NMFS,
Office of Protected Resources, 13th Floor, 1315 East-West Hwy, Silver
Spring, MD 20910. Mark the outside of the envelope with ``Request for
Makah EA.'' Copies of the EA may also be obtained by contacting Gale Heim
at 301/713-2322.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Prior to the 1997 Annual International Whaling
Commission (IWC) Meeting, NMFS formally analyzed the environmental impacts
of a decision to support or not support whaling, and to determine whether
an annual subsistence quota of up to five Eastern Pacific gray whales
would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. A draft
EA was distributed for public comment on August 22, 1997. After reviewing
and addressing the comments received, NMFS issued a final EA and Finding
of No Significant Impact on October 17, 1997.

    At its 1997 annual meeting, the IWC approved a quota of 620 gray
whales for an original subsistence harvest during the years 1998 through
2002. The basis for the quota was a joint request by the Russian
Federation (for a total of 600 whales) and the United States (for a total
of 20 whales). In 1998 and 1999, NOAA granted an allocation of up to five
whales a year to the Makah Indian Tribe, whose subsistence and ceremonial
needs had been the foundation of the U.S. request to the IWC.

    U.S. Congressman Jack Metcalf, Breach Marine Protection, and several
other plaintiffs brought a lawsuit, Metcalf v. Daley, in October 1997,
alleging that the U.S. Government had violated the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA), the Whaling Convention Act, and other statutes. In
September 1998, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of
Washington ruled in favor of the U.S. Government on all issues.

    On June 9, 2000, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned one
aspect of that decision, ruling that the 1997 EA should have been
completed before the U.S. and the Makah Tribe entered into a cooperative
agreement. That agreement had provided that, if the Tribe
prepared an adequate needs statement documenting a cultural and
subsistence need to harvest gray whales, NOAA would request a quota of
gray whales from the IWC. Two judges on a three-judge panel held that the
timing of the EA, which was completed after the 1996 agreement was signed
and before the 1997 annual meeting of the IWC, may have predisposed the
preparers to find that the whaling proposal would not significantly affect
the environment. The Court ordered NOAA to set aside that finding and
comply with NEPA under circumstances that would ensure an objective
evaluation of the environmental consequences of the
gray whale harvest.

    Following the Court action, NOAA rescinded its cooperative agreement
with the Makah Tribe on August 11, 2000. NOAA subsequently set the gray
whale quota for 2000 (65 FR 75186, December 1, 2000) and 2001 (65 FR
14862, March 14, 2001) at zero, pending completion of its
NEPA analysis.

    NEPA requires that Federal agencies conduct an environmental analysis
of their actions to determine if the actions may affect the environment.
Accordingly, NMFS prepared a draft EA, published on January 12, 2001,
conducted a public hearing in Seattle, WA on February 1, 2001, and held a
30-day public comment period to allow for public input on the Draft EA.
This final EA explores the environmental consequences of four
alternatives: (1) grant Makah Tribe the IWC quota with restrictions that
allow a limited hunt on the pacific coast feeding aggregation; (2) grant
Makah Tribe the IWC quota with restrictions to target hunt on migrating
whales (similar to the 1999 regime); (3) grant Makah Tribe the IWC quota
without time-area restrictions; and (4) (no action) - do not grant Makah
Tribe the IWC quota. NMFS has identified the preferred alternative as
alternative 1, which will grant the Makah Tribe the IWC quota of five
whales per year with restrictions that would allow a limited hunt on the
gray whale summer feeding aggregation.

    This EA was prepared in accordance with NEPA and implementing
regulations at 40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508 and NOAA guidelines
concerning implementation of NEPA found in NOAA Administrative Order

    Dated: July 13, 2001.
Don Knowles,
Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries

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