Subject: U.S. whale hunt request triggers outcry at IWC

Mike Williamson (
Thu, 23 Oct 1997 15:32:28 -0400 (EDT)

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Date: Thu, 23 Oct 97 12:47:00 GMT 
Subject: U.S. whale hunt request trigge

U.S. whale hunt request triggers outcry at IWC

 (Recasts, updates with quotes)
     By Christine Tierney
     MONACO, Oct 22 (Reuters) - The United States ran into fierce
opposition on Wednesday from allies at the International Whaling
Commission (IWC) with a request that the Makah Indian tribe be
allowed to resume whaling in the Pacific.
     U.S. officials asked for a quota of 20 grey whales over the
next five years for the Makah as part of a first ever joint
U.S.-Russian application for aboriginal subsistence quotas.
     Environmental groups and many of Washington's traditional
allies at the IWC said the Makah, who have not hunted whales in
more than 70 years, did not fit the IWC's definition of
aboriginal subsistence hunters who depend on whale meat.
     They also criticised the United States for twinning its
request, which was not put to a vote on Wednesday, with that of
the impoverished Chukotka Inuit of Siberia.
     "The Chukotka are starving," said New Zealand Whaling
Commissioner Jim McLay. "The New Zealand delegation is very
disappointed that an acceptable proposal has been linked to one
that is unacceptable."
     The United States first sought the quota unsuccesfully last
year to meet its obligation under an 1855 treaty granting the
Makah, who live in the state of Washington, the right to hunt
whale as their ancestors had for 1,500 years.
     The Makah, who number around 2,000, have begun rowing
practice to get in shape to hunt the eight-tonne whales much as
their ancestors did, in 10-metre (30-foot) cedar canoes.
     But the idea is also unpopular domestically, with U.S.
legislators lobbying against it and environmentalists
challenging it in court.
     "This is a complex issue involving culture, tradition,
treaty law and an animal that we're all committed to conserve,"
said U.S. delegate Will Martin.
     The IWC has traditionally allotted a grey whale quota to
Russia for the Siberian Inuit and a quota of bowhead whales for
Alaskan Inuit living just across the Bering Strait.
     Under the joint request, the Russians and Americans would
share a quota of 56 bowhead and 120 grey whales a year for the
next five years. The Russian natives want to hunt a few bowhead
but are currently not allowed to.
     The grey whale, which has rallied back from near-extinction
earlier this century, was removed from the U.S. list of
endangered species in 1994. The IWC estimates that around 21,000
grey whales live along the North American west coast.
     "The stock is in good shape. The IWC Scientific Committee
says a take of up to 480 grey whales would be sustainable,"
German Whaling Commissioner Norbert Kleeschulte told Reuters.
     "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.
     Marine biologist Sidney Holt, a longtime adviser to the IWC,
cautioned that the hunt would be dangerous. "The grey whale
used to be called thedevilfish. It's not very big but it's very
active and can become very aggressive," he said.
     "American whalers considered it a much more difficult
animal to kill than the sperm whale. I think it's going to be a
horrendous business, certainly for the whales and probably for
the people," he said.