Date: Wed, 19 May, 1999


From Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Makah and feds reap the whirlwind; IWC must act

When the prolonged, agonizing destruction of a 3-year-old Gray whale in U.S. waters was broadcast live into several million living rooms in the Pacific Northwest on the morning of May 17, people suddenly "got it" about the Makah Indian tribe's whale hunt.

The sight of National Marine Fisheries Service personnel and a paid Alaskan Inuit engaging in the "ceremonial" butchery of the Makah's long-sought whale virtually alone (at one point calling out to the crowd, "Hey, we need some Makah over here!") did not help the tribe's cause. Makah whaling captain Wayne Johnson's subsequent statement to the media that "We'll be taking one again before long" further aggravated the situation in which the Makah have placed themselves. Increasingly isolated, the reservation is now routinely roadblocked in order to protect tribal members from outraged local citizens. Protests continue to grow. With commercial and tourism boycotts in the offing, other tribes are distancing themselves from the Makah. The First Nations Environmental Network stated on May 18 "We cannot support this this point in human history, we feel that spiritually and morally, the act of killing whales cannot be justified."

The U.S. Coast Guard, after ensuring that the Makah would succeed in killing a whale by sweeping protestors off the water, is faring no better. The Coast Guard has now issued an advisory to all personnel in Washington and Oregon not to go out in public while in uniform for their own safety. (Sea Shepherd commends those members of the Coast Guard who have broken ranks to let whale activists know that they "have to jump the fence and swim with the whales on this one," as one put it.) The offices of Washington newspapers, television stations, state legislators and Vice President Al Gore -- the individual most responsible for allowing the hunt to occur -- have been deluged with angry phone calls, faxes, and e-mails.

"We do not condone threats of violence against individuals, but we understand the rage and anguish that has been awakened in ordinary people who know something is very wrong here," said Paul Watson, President of Sea Shepherd, which had a boat seized and crew arrested in the course of the struggle to prevent the killing of a whale. "Diplomatic double-talk from the International Whaling Commission is not helping any," Watson said. "It is now up to the infractions committee of the IWC, meeting next week in Grenada, to stop mincing words and simply state the obvious: The Makah are not a recognized subsistence tribe, and are not exempt from the world-wide ban on non-subsistence whaling.

"In the meantime, the politicians are finally getting the message they haven't been able to hear until now: The American people will not tolerate a 'cultural' whale hunt in their country."

On Wednesday, an anonymous mourner left a wreath, a flower lei, a candle and a note on the spot in the Makah marina where the whale was butchered. The note read "Baby, you didn't deserve this. We love you."

The remains of the whale had been cordoned off with yellow police "crime scene" tape.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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