Subject: IWC: U.S. seeks controversial whale hunt quota

Mike Williamson (
Thu, 23 Oct 1997 15:31:49 -0400 (EDT)

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Date: Thu, 23 Oct 97 12:46:00 GMT 
Subject: U.S. seeks controversial whale

U.S. seeks controversial whale hunt quota

    MONACO (Reuters) - The United States, braving objections
from close allies, asked the International Whaling Commission to
let the U.S. Makah Indian tribe resume its lost whaling
     The U.S. delegation asked the IWC to let the Makah kill up
to five gray whales a year as part of a joint request with
Russia for aboriginal subsistence quotas.
     The request dismayed many of Washington's staunch allies at
the IWC who said the Makah had stopped hunting whales more than
70 years ago and could no longer claim to depend on whales for
their survival.
     "There is no traditional dependence, nor in our view is
there a traditional need," said David Kay, an Australian
delegate to the IWC, which was holding its annual meeting in the
tiny Mediterranean principality of Monaco.
     The IWC has traditionally allotted a gray whale quota to
Russia for the impoverished Siberian Inuit and a quota of
bowhead whales to Alaskan Inuit living across the Bering Strait.
     Under the joint request submitted Wednesday, the Russians
and Americans would share a quota of 120 gray whales a year and
56 bowhead a year over the next five years.
     The Makah claim a 1,500-year whaling tradition and pressed
the U.S. government to fulfil its obligations under an 1855
treaty to protect their whaling rights.
     Washington removed the gray whale from its list of
endangered species in 1994, and the IWC estimates that around
21,000 gray whales live along the North American west coast.
     "We see the stock is in good shape. The IWC scientific
committee says a take of up to 480 grey whales would be
sustainable," said German Whaling Commissioner Norbert
     "In Germany's view, it's quite important to respect the
right of native communities to define their cultural needs.
We're not going to fight the United States on this," he said.
     The Makah, who number around 2,000, are training to resume
the whale hunt much as their ancestors did in 30-foot cedar
     Marine biologist Sidney Holt, a longtime adviser to the IWC,
cautioned that the hunt could be very dangerous. "The grey
whale used to be called the devilfish. It's not very big but
it's very active and can become very aggressive," he told
     "American whalers considered it a much more difficult
animal to kill than the sperm whale, for instance. I think it's
going to be a horrendous business, certainly for the whales and
probably for the people," he said.
     The proposal to hunt grey whales has sparked strong
opposition in the United States.
     "If the aboriginal subsistence quota is granted to the
Makah, it will set a dangerous precedent and we can expect
similar proposals to the IWC from coastal communities throughout
the world," a group of U.S. congressmen wrote to IWC chairman
Peter Bridgewater.