Makah Tribal Whale Hunt Chronology

Major Events Related to the Makah Tribe’s Request for a Waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to Hunt Gray Whales

April 5, 2019: We announce a proposed waiver under the MMPA and proposed hunt regulations, including a description of the public process for interested parties to participate in a formal rulemaking on our proposal before an Administrative Law Judge.

September 2018: The International Whaling Commission extends the gray whale catch limit for 7 years.

July 31, 2015: Comment period closed on new Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

May 29, 2015: Comment period extended from June 11 to July 31, 2015.

March 2015: We announce the release of and request comments on a new DEIS and announce public meetings. The DEIS considers a new set of alternatives from those assessed in the 2008 DEIS (later terminated in 2012).

July 3, 2012: The International Whaling Commission extends the gray whale catch limit for 6 years.

May 21, 2012: We announce that we're terminating the 2008 DEIS and beginning a process to develop a new DEIS.

August 15, 2008: Comment period closed on DEIS.

May 9, 2008: We announce release of a DEIS on the Makah Tribe’s request to continue treaty right subsistence hunting of eastern North Pacific gray whales. The DEIS considers various alternatives to the Tribe's proposed action and is available for a 60-day public comment period.

March & April 2008: Three of the Makah Tribe members enter guilty pleas on March 27, 2008, to unlawful taking of a marine mammal in violation of the MMPA. On April 7, 2008, after a bench trial on stipulated facts, the court finds the remaining two Tribal members guilty of conspiracy and unlawful taking of a marine mammal in violation of the MMPA.

October & November 2007: The five Makah Tribe members involved in the September 2007 killing of a gray whale are indicted in federal court on Oct. 5, 2007, for unauthorized whaling, unauthorized take of a marine mammal, and conspiracy to engage in unlawful whaling. On Nov. 16, 2007, the five are charged in Makah Tribal court for violating the Tribe's gray whale management plan, violating state and federal laws, and reckless endangerment.

September 8, 2007: Five members of the Makah Tribe hunt and kill a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in a hunt that was not authorized by the tribe or NOAA Fisheries. This unauthorized hunt did not comply with numerous provisions and restrictions defined in the tribe's application, and both the Tribe and NOAA Fisheries make statements condemning the unlawful hunt.

May 30, 2007: The International Whaling Commission extends gray whale catch limit for 5 years.

February 27, 2006: We announce our decision to expand scope of the DEIS to include issuance of International Whaling Commission quotas under the Whaling Convention Act.

October 2005: We conduct public scoping meetings in Neah Bay, Port Angeles and Seattle, Wash., and Washington D.C., to receive public input on the resources to be analyzed and possible alternatives to include in the DEIS.

August 25, 2005: We publish a notice of intent to conduct public scoping meetings and to prepare an EIS related to the Makah Tribe's request to continue treaty right subsistence hunting of eastern North Pacific gray whales.

March 3, 2005: We publish a notice of availability of the Makah Tribe’s MMPA waiver request.

February 14, 2005: We receive the Makah Tribe's request for a waiver of the MMPA's take moratorium.

November 26, 2003, & June 7, 2004: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice denies en banc rehearings on Anderson v. Evans, and issues the first amended opinion (350 F.3d 815) and second amended opinion (371 F.3d 475). The amended opinions clarify the legal reasoning of the decision but do not change it.

December 20, 2002: Anderson v. Evans, (314 F.3d 1006) Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the District Court's August 2002 opinion, ruling that 1) an EIS (rather than an Environmental Assessment) should have been prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act, and 2) the Makah Tribe, to pursue any treaty rights for whaling, must comply with the process prescribed in the MMPA for authorizing take of marine mammals otherwise prohibited by a moratorium.

August 2002: District Court for the Western District of Washington grants summary judgment for us on a lawsuit filed in January 2002 alleging violations of the MMPA and NEPA.

May 2002: The International Whaling Commission sets a catch limit of 620 eastern North Pacific gray whales for 2003 through 2007. The Russian Federation (acting on behalf of the Chukotkan people for a total of 600 whales) and the United States (acting on behalf of the Makah Tribe for a total of 20 whales) submit needs statements to the IWC.

July 12, 2001: We issue our final Environmental Assessment with a preferred alternative granting the Makah Tribe the International Whaling Commission quota of five whales a year for ceremonial and subsistence purposes with restrictions that allow a limited hunt on the Pacific Coast feeding aggregation, a portion of the eastern North Pacific stock that occurs along the Pacific Coast from California to British Columbia during the summer feeding season.

January 14, 2001: We distribute our draft Environmental Assessment on issuing a quota to the Makah Tribe for a subsistence hunt on gray whales for 2001 and 2002 for public comment, with a preferred alternative of allowing a hunt on migrating whales.

June 9, 2000: Metcalf v. Daley (214 F.3d 1135), Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses and remands the District Court's September 1998 opinion, holding that we failed to take a "hard look" under the National Environmental Policy Act at the proposed whale hunt.

August 1999: NOAA publishes Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-103, Status Review of the Eastern North Pacific Stock of Gray Whales, concluding the five-year monitoring and assessment following delisting, and recommending the continuation of the stock's classification as non-threatened.

May 17, 1999: The Makah Tribe hunt, strike, and land eastern North Pacific gray whale.

September 21, 1998: District Court for the Western District of Washington grants summary judgment for us on a lawsuit filed in October of 1997, ruling that the Makah Tribe can resume whaling.

April 6, 1998: We allocate the quota to the Makah Tribe for limited hunts in 1999 under the WCA.

October 18, 1997: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) sets a catch limit of 620 eastern North Pacific gray whales for 1998 through 2002. The Russian Federation (acting on behalf of the Chukotkan people for a total of 600 whales) and the U.S. (acting on behalf of the Makah Tribe for a total of 20 whales) submit needs statements to the IWC.

October 17, 1997: We issue a final Environmental Assessment and finding of no significant impact after conducting an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

October 13, 1997: We enter into an agreement with the Makah Tribe to pursue a quota at the International Whaling Commission meeting, adding time and area restrictions on the hunts to a prior, similar agreement signed in March of 1996.

May 5, 1995: The Makah Tribe formally notifies the U.S. Government of its interest in resuming treaty right ceremonial and subsistence harvest of eastern North Pacific gray whales, asking the Department of Commerce to represent it in seeking approval from the International Whaling Commission for an annual quota.

June 16, 1994: Eastern North Pacific gray whales are removed from the Federal List of Endangered Wildlife after a determination that the population has "recovered to near its estimated original population size and is neither in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, nor likely to again become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range." We begin a five-year monitoring program.

1972: The MMPA  is enacted. Under the MMPA, we're responsible for the conservation of 147 stocks of whales, dolphins, and porpoises as well as seals, sea lions, and fur seals, including the eastern North Pacific gray whale.

June 2, 1970: Gray whales are among the baleen whales listed as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Conservation Act, precursor to the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

1949: The Whaling Convention Act (16 USC 916 et seq.) is enacted to domestically implement the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).

1946: U.S. signs the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), established in order "to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry…." The ICRW creates the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to implement the schedule. The IWC amends the schedule to impose a complete ban on the taking or killing of gray whales, but includes an aboriginal subsistence exception "when the meat and products of such are to be used exclusively for local consumption by the aborigines."

1920s: The Makah Tribe cease whaling after commercial hunting greatly reduces the eastern North Pacific gray whale population.

1855: U.S. Government and Makah Tribe enter into the Treaty of Neah Bay, securing "[t]he right of taking fish and of whaling and sealing at usual and accustomed grounds and stations…" and ceding most of the Tribal lands on the Olympic Peninsula.

The Makah Indian Tribe's tradition of whaling dates back at least 1,500 years.

 

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on April 04, 2019