British Columbia Humpbacks May Soon Lose Ocean Quiet

Off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, humpbacks are making a comeback. A proposed supertanker highway, however, could change that. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

Off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, humpbacks are making a comeback. A proposed supertanker highway, however, could change that. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

by Candice Gaukel Andrews August 4, 2016

Video: British Columbia Humpbacks May Soon Lose Ocean Quiet

In some of the last quiet, pristine waters on the British Columbia Coast, humpback whales are making a comeback. In the mid 1960s, when Canada stopped whaling on its West Coast, there were only about 1,500 of them left in the North Pacific. Ten years ago, a study estimated that their numbers had multiplied to about 22,000.

Today, however, these whales are facing another huge menace: a proposed supertanker highway through one of their few remaining peaceful havens. A massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that’s being planned for the northern part of the province and possible bitumen oil pipelines from the Alberta tar sands to the B.C. Coast would route a potential 2,000 to 3,000 tankers through the Great Bear Sea per year, putting whales in daily risk of ship strikes.

A quiet ocean is essential for humpbacks; they largely use sound instead of sight to navigate, avoid predators, forage for food and find mates. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

A quiet ocean is essential for humpbacks; they largely use sound instead of sight to navigate, avoid predators, forage for food and find mates. ©From the video “Whale Haven” by Pacific Wild

That’s not the only danger the tankers would pose. If the pipelines are approved, each ship would carry over two million barrels of oil—the equivalent of 127, Olympic-size swimming pools. These colossal quantities of oil traveling along one of the world’s most dangerous shipping routes means that there’s a high risk of spillage. Smaller leaks and spills and the introduction of invasive, exotic species are additional threats these huge boats would bring to the waters of the Great Bear Sea. And, supertankers are the loudest marine vessels on Earth. Here, where current low noise levels allow the whales to communicate and forage successfully, the thunder of these carriers could displace the whales again.

Video: British Columbia Humpbacks May Soon Lose Ocean Quiet

Federal Court: Navy Must Limit Long-Range Sonar Use to Protect Marine Mammal

https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160718

Siding with NGOs for 3rd time, Court tells Navy that protecting marine mammal habitat is “of paramount importance”

SAN FRANCISCO – In a unanimous rebuke, the Ninth Circuit court ruled Friday that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had illegally approved a permit authorizing the Navy to use its high-intensity long-range sonar – called low-frequency active sonar (or LFA) – in more than 70 percent of the world’s oceans. Designed for submarine detection over vast expanses of deep sea, LFA has the capacity to expose thousands of square miles – and everything in it – to dangerous levels of noise.

The case against the Fisheries Service was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Humane Society of the United States, Cetacean Society International, League for Coastal Protection, Ocean Futures Society and its President Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Michael Stocker, a bioacoustician and director of Ocean Conservation Research in California.

In its decision, the three-judge panel found that the Fisheries Service had unlawfully ignored reasonable safeguards recommended by the government’s own scientists to reduce or prevent harm from the sonar system, resulting in a “systematic underprotection of marine mammals” throughout “most of the oceans of the world.” Experts had recommended that the Fisheries Service protect the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off of Hawaii, Challenger Bank off of Bermuda, and other areas around the world important to whales, dolphins, seals, and other marine mammals. But the Fisheries Service went ahead and gave the Navy the greenlight to operate its intense sonar in the vast majority of these areas.

Among other things, the court also found that:

  • Protecting marine mammal habitat from Navy sonar is “of paramount importance” under the law.
  • The Fisheries Service has an independent responsibility to ensure the “least practicable impact on marine mammals” (i.e., the lowest possible level of harm)before giving the Navy – or anyone else – permission to harm these protected species; and that the Fisheries Service must err on the side of overprotection rather than underprotection.
  • The Fisheries Service had given “mere lip service” to the requirement to minimize impacts during Navy sonar training.
  • The law requires the Fisheries Service to mitigate harm to individual marine mammals and their habitat, rather than ignore its statutory responsibility until species as a whole are threatened.
Photo @ Jim Robertson

Photo @ Jim Robertson

Video: Sea Shepherd Saved a Life Today‏

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE
From Captain Oona Layolle

————————————-

Dear Friends,

While patrolling the vaquita refuge for illegal gillnets this weekend, we discovered a humpback whale hopelessly entangled in a gillnet. We knew that it was a race against time to save this exhausted humpback. Our crew jumped into action to rescue the whale from drowning and I notified the Mexican Navy and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA).

Since mid-January, the crews of the R/V Martin Sheen and M/V Farley Mowat have worked tirelessly to find illegal gillnets and remove them from the Vaquita Refuge in the Gulf of California. Removing gillnets is vital to the survival of both the vaquita and the totoaba bass.

Gillnets are nets of death, trapping any marine life that comes into contact with them. The crew of both vessels have worked to develop net retrieval devices that uncover the sunken gillnets. Search teams from the ships, drag the net retrieval devices in search patterns to find nets daily. Once a net is located by the search teams, I notify the Mexican Navy so that we can remove the nets and the Navy can seize the illegal fishing gear.

With your continued support, the life-saving work of our crews, and our continued partnership with the Mexican Navy, we can save the vaquita from the brink of extinction.

For the oceans,

Captain Oona Layolle

————————————-

WATCH THE COMPELLING VIDEO
Sea Shepherd Saves Humpback Whale

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READ CAPTAIN OONA’S FULL REPORT
Learn More About the Rescue

Marine mammal strandings concern experts

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20160218/marine-mammal-strandings-concern-experts?utm_source=Daily+Astorian+Updates&utm_campaign=451026f0b5-TEMPLATE_Daily_Astorian_Newsletter_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e787c9ed3c-451026f0b5-109860249

 By Lyra Fontaine

EO Media Group

Published:February 18, 2016 9:01AM
Last changed:February 18, 2016 9:35AM

Daily Astorian/File Photo People stop to look at the dead humpback whale calf that washed ashore on the Seaside beach.

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Neal Maine/For EO Media Group
Workmen move the humpback whale that washed ashore in Seaside.

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A humpback whale that washed ashore in Seaside was one of several strandings

CANNON BEACH — The humpback whale stranded in Seaside in January may have become entangled or struck by a boat, according to Debbie Duffield, a Portland State University biology professor.

More than 30 people gathered for a lecture, “Marine Mammals, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Marine Reserves,” last week at the Cannon Beach Library.

The topic was particularly timely. In the past few weeks, a humpback whale washed ashore in Seaside, and a harbor porpoise and two striped dolphins were found on the North Coast. Experts are still waiting on necropsy results for the whale to see whether it was infected or if it had an accident.

The humpback has bruising that could have been from entanglement or a boat strike, Duffield said. It also carried a fairly heavy parasite load for a whale not more than 2 years old.

The presentation — a partnership between Duffield and Keith Chandler, the Seaside Aquarium general manager — was part of Haystack Rock Awareness Program’s lecture series.

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which Duffield and Chandler belong to, responds to mammal strandings from Tillamook to Long Beach, Washington. They see 149 stranded animals a year on average. The most common animals include California sea lions, harbor seals and Steller sea lions.

Strandings allow researchers to evaluate otherwise inaccessible animals, and necropsies tell scientists vital physiological and biological information. Marine mammals’ tissues are sampled and used for studies on ocean pollution, biotoxins and other environmental changes.

Once they evaluate a stranded animal, researchers take samples back to the university to study it in a controlled area and test for infections. After they finish the necropsies, they might prepare the bones for students to piece together.

“Every once in awhile we have species that, because of their charismatic value, are of great interest to everybody,” Duffield said.

For example, a killer whale was stranded in Long Beach several years ago, drawing veterinaries, researchers and onlookers alike. Duffield also recalls when a Baird’s beaked whale came in live in Seaside during a volleyball tournament. “Luckily, people weren’t around it when it started to die and thrash, because it could have killed somebody,” she said.

Why do these animals appear on shores? Seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins and porpoises are primarily stranded due to human interaction, such as gunshots, fisheries interaction and net entanglement. Bacterial disease, cancer and infections also cause strandings.

Sometimes the human-related interactions are extreme. Duffield displayed a jarring photo of a California sea lion that had part of its face destroyed by an explosive device.

She also showed a picture of plastics and debris on the Seaside beach. Sea lions get entangled in plastic bands, but since they bite, it’s difficult for humans to help them remove bands and recover from wounds. In 2010, a dead whale stranded in Washington’s Puget Sound beach had 50 gallons of material in its stomach that was mostly algae, but also human debris, such as sweatpants, plastic bags, duct tape and towels.

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network works to improve treatment and disentangle marine mammals from debris and fishery gear.

Duffield said that the animals are resilient. Seals and sea lions often carry worms in their stomach that can form ulcers. “They just live with that,” she said. “Their parasite loads are tremendous.”

The strandings may also point to larger forces at work. The El Niño climate pattern that’s increasing coastal temperatures, along with the warm “blob” of water in the north Pacific Ocean, affect the animals’ prey.

“We’re at the apex of these changes that we can actually follow annually,” Duffield said. “It’s a fascinating change that we’re living through.”

Marine experts seek answers in death of humpback whale

A whale washed up Sunday evening on the beach in Seaside. — Kyle Spurr/The Daily Astorian

 

SEASIDE — The dead 24-foot humpback whale that washed ashore on the north end of Seaside’s beach Sunday caused quite a stir.

A couple of dozen onlookers stopped to watch Tuesday as a team of marine experts from Portland State University and Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers performed a necropsy on the animal, which had been moved slightly inland and north on the beach. Some came to town specifically to see the whale.

The team collected biological samples that will be used to help determine a cause of death. If there are no “smoking guns,” such as bullet holes or something stuck in the mammal’s throat, then it can take days or weeks to determine a cause of death, said Keith Chandler, the general manager of Seaside Aquarium.

It was clear the animal did not die from old age, as it was only about a year old, Chandler said. He said it is not unusual to see a whale wash ashore on the North Coast, but they tend to be gray whales. Humpbacks are rare — Chandler said he has only see a few in his 20 years with the stranding network — but the species was spotted in nearby waters recently.

“There were a few humpbacks hanging out in the mouth of the Columbia River last year,” he said. “They are usually further offshore. It could have died offshore and with the storm, washed in.”

The whale was one of at least five cetaceans to wash up in the area in three days. A harbor porpoise and two striped dolphins were found Saturday. One dolphin was found in Cannon Beach and the other in Ocean Park, Washington. A third striped dolphin washed ashore in Seaside Monday. Chandler said it is “quite unusual to get them all together,” especially the striped dolphins.

The Ocean Park dolphin showed signs of being entangled in a net and had a hole in its tail that appeared to be from a gaff, Chandler said. The dolphin from Seaside had a similar hole in the same area, but it had not undergone a necropsy by Tuesday. Chandler said it could be a single event — getting caught in the net — that caused the unusual occurrence of killing multiple dolphins at once. If a single event is the cause of death, Chandler said, then “we know it’s just an accident,” as opposed to persistent conditions impacting a species, like disease.

City crews planned to bury the whale at the beach by Wednesday morning.

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20160203/marine-experts-seek-answers-in-death-of-humpback-whale?utm_source=Daily+Astorian+Updates&utm_campaign=b5c32b3710-TEMPLATE_Daily_Astorian_Newsletter_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e787c9ed3c-b5c32b3710-109860249

Orca Expert says: Breach the Snake River Dams

Breach the Snake River Dams

Posted here:http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/15/breach-the-snake-river-dams/ by Carl Safina of The Safina Center on June 15, 2015

By Kenneth Balcomb, guest essayist

Note: In this guest essay, long-time killer whale researcher Ken Balcomb shows how obsolete but still salmon-killing dams are helping cause the decline of killer whales due to food shortage in the Northwest. The dams do feed us one thing: propaganda. As Ken wrote to me, “I was flabbergasted that the dams are closed to photography, and that their wasteful secret is downplayed in the mainstream propaganda fed to the public.” For more on the dams, see my book Song for the Blue Ocean. For more on Ken and the whales he has spent his life loving and studying, see my soon-to-be-released book Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, which will hit bookstores on July 14. — Carl Safina

I have studied the majestic southern resident killer whales of the Pacific Northwest for forty years (approximately one productive lifespan – whale or human), during which time much has been learned and shared with the world about this iconic endangered population. They are now arguably the best known whales in the world! But, that was not always the case. The common response in the 1960‘s and 1970‘s to my announcement that I was studying whales was, “Why?” “What good are they?”

My best response was to point out that as top marine predators whales are indicators of the health of that environment in which they live – the ocean – and that is also an environment upon which humans depend. Now, with growing numbers of people appreciating the whales’ natural role in the marine environment, and better understanding their ecological requirement for specific food—Chinook salmon in this case—to survive, the conversation has moved toward a strategy of how best to provide that food. There is currently an active discussion about removal of the Snake River dams to save fish, or whales. The issue of whether dams should be breached to provide this food for the whales has now arrived. Would that be reasonable? Are we sure that will work?

I don’t consider this lightly. I tend to consider the status quo of institutions and structures to be enduring and worthy of protection, even if only as displays of the truly amazing feats our species has achieved in the course of human evolution and ingenuity. Not all of our feats have been without unforeseen consequence, however; and, most tend to crumble over time anyway. Dams require maintenance, and they eventually fill with sediment.

Until recently, dam removal was against my conservative nature. And it still seems to be counter to our government’s intent. This is in spite of clear evidence that the salmon-eating population of “killer” whales that I am studying is on a path to extinction along with significant populations of their main food resource—Chinook salmon—huge numbers of which formerly spawned and returned to the Snake River, and fed whales in the Pacific Ocean and humans, before the dams were built.

I had to see for myself what was going on in the Snake River watershed currently. So last week my brother and I drove up the highway to visit the dams on the Columbia River and upstream, sightseeing and taking photos and videos along the way and learning about the current passage of remnant populations of salmon.

But when we got to the McNary and Ice Harbor dams just below the Snake River and on it, it seemed as if an iron curtain had come down and we were prevented from taking any photographs, or even carrying cameras and cell phones behind the fences surrounding the dam structures. It was as if something was being hidden from view. And, it was. There was no point in our continuing upstream to Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams to take photographs and videos of fish passage, because that was not allowed.

Lower Monumental Dam, Snake River
Lower Monumental Dam, Snake River, Photo: USACE

In truth, already well known to others but not to me, these four Snake River dams are obsolete for their intended purposes and are being maintained at huge taxpayer expense for the benefit of a very few users. Plus, they are salmon-killers in a former river (now a series of lakes) that historically provided spawning and rearing habitat for millions of Chinook salmon. And, they now doom all technological attempts to bolster these salmon populations to expensive failure.

Even many of the Army Corps of Engineers’ internal documents recommend that returning the river to natural or normative conditions may be the only recovery scenario for Snake River fall Chinook salmon, and it will also benefit other salmon populations.

You and I are paying for this economic and ecological blemish with our tax dollars spent to maintain structures and negative return on investment in power generation, “barge” transportation, and recreation. The question I would now ask is “Why?” and “What good are they?”

Killer Whales off San Juan Island
Killer whales off San Juan Island, Photo by Carl Safina

Removal can be done inexpensively and doing so makes perfect ecological sense. The technological fixes for the dams have not improved wild salmon runs, and there is nothing left to try. There are no fixes for the deadly lakes behind the dams. As a nation, we are dangerously close to managing the beloved southern resident killer whale population to quasi-extinction (less than 30 breeding animals) as a result of diminishing populations of Chinook salmon upon which they depend. There are only about eighty of these whales now remaining (including juveniles and post-reproductive animals), down from nearly 100 two decades ago and down from 87 when they were listed as “Endangered” in 2005.

If you really want to have healthy ecosystems with salmon and whales in the Pacific Northwest future, and save tax/rate payer money at the same time, please contact or mail your thoughts to your elected representatives in support of a Presidential mandate to begin the return of the Snake River ecosystem to natural or normative conditions by the end of the current presidential administration. The time is now!

When they are gone it will be forever. Returning the Snake River to natural condition will help salmon and whales, and save money. Please do not wait until all are gone. Call or write your representatives today!

 

Ken Balcomb, 11 June 2015

Senior Scientist, Center for Whale Research

Washington state tribe’s whale hunting request triggers new backlash

dead whale

http://planetark.org/wen/73140

Date: 30-Apr-15
Country: USA
Author: Eric M. Johnson

A Native American tribe’s request to resume its sacred canoe and harpoon hunts of federally protected gray whales off the Washington state coast has drawn fresh opposition while the treaty-enshrined proposal is weighed by U.S. fisheries managers.

The application is at the heart of a decades-long quest by the Makah Tribe to hunt the marine mammals for both subsistence and religious purposes, which the tribe says it has done over millennia in the Pacific Ocean and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Conservationists have criticized the practice as an unnecessary and barbaric death for animals that have high sentience and intelligence levels.

“The bottom line is that the Makah don’t have a legitimate need to kill the whales,” said D.J. Schubert, a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit group.

The Makah Tribe is the only Native American tribe outside Alaska to hold whaling rights, enshrined in an 1855 U.S. treaty, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is evaluating the request.

The Makah tribe ceased the practice in the early 20th century as whale populations dropped. But after gray whales were de-listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1994, tribe members harvested one whale in 1999 with the U.S. government’s approval.

In 2004, a U.S. appeals court ruled the Makah must seek a waiver from the Marine Mammal Protection Act to hunt whales, and that NOAA officials must analyze the environmental impact of the request.

The tribe sought a waiver a year later, asking to take as many as five gray whales annually from an estimated stock of 20,0000, NOAA said.

The tribe did not respond to requests for comment. It says on its website that “whaling and whales are central” to its culture, describing capturing an animal that can weigh 80,000 pounds (36 metric tonnes) using little more than a harpoon thrown from a canoe. NOAA says whalers use .50-caliber gun for the final kill.

In 2007, lacking government approval, Makah whalers killed a gray whale.

A NOAA study from March looked at range of options, including allowing the tribe to hunt up to five whales a year during limited seasons and under other restrictions.

The final analysis, which NOAA hopes to finish by year’s end, will be evaluated during a hearing by an administrative law judge who will decide whether to grant the hunting request.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Trott)

Reuters

 

Whale of a Fight Over Bringing Belugas to U.S.

http://www.11alive.com/story/news/2014/08/20/beluga-whale/14325783/

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Aquarium wants to bring 18 Beluga Whales to the US.

The Aquarium was denied their request to bring the whales here more than two years ago, but Wednesday, they will appeal that decision.

When they first asked to bring the mammals here, it started a firestorm of controversy from animal rights advocates.

The whales were collected at a research facility in Russia in 2006, 2010, and 2011.

There has been strong opposition to bringing the Belugas to the US from environmentalists who think the whales should stay put… But the aquarium argues it would do more good to have them here, where they say they can teach people to care about wildlife and serve as ambassadors.

This is a very long running fight between the two groups.

All the way back in June of 2012, the Aquarium submitted the application to bring the whales to the US.

A year later, in November, NOAA denied their application, which at the time, was unexpected.

The Georgia Aquarium filed their appeal, in October of 2013

The court will hold a hearing on Wednesday about documents the Georgia Aquarium wants uncovered.

According to the Aquarium, NOAA seemed likely to approve their request and then changed course.

The Aquarium is asking for all documents related to the decision not to allow the whales to come to the US.

There will likely not be a ruling Wednesday.

Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/08/whale-poo-reverse-climate-change

I have been at the wrong end of a defecating sperm whale: it smells, it’s nutrient rich, and could just save the world
A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina.

A whale seen under a whalewatching boat in Peninsula Valdez, Argentina. Photograph: Justin Hofman / Barcroft Media

The first success of the environmental movements of the 1960s was to save the whale. Now, with deep irony, whales may be about to save us with their poo. A new scientific report from the University of Vermont, which gathers together several decades of research, shows that the great whales which nearly became extinct in the 20th century – and are now recovering in number due to the 1983 ban on whaling – may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces.

Not only do the nutrients in whale poo feed other organisms, from phytoplankton upwards – and thereby absorb the carbon we humans are pumping into the atmosphere – even in death the sinking bodies of these massive animals create new resources on the sea bed, where entire species exist solely to graze on rotting whale. There’s an additional and direct benefit for humans, too. Contrary to the suspicions of fishermen that whales take their catch, cetacean recovery could “lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth”. Their fertilizing faeces here, too, would encourage phytoplankton which in turn would encourage healthier fisheries.

Such propositions speak to our own species’ arrogance. As demonstrated in the fantastical geoengineering projects dreamed up to address climate change, the human race’s belief that the world revolves around it knows no bounds. What if whales were nature’s ultimate geoengineers? The new report only underlines what has been suspected for some time: that cetaceans, both living and dead, are ecosystems in their own right. But it also raises a hitherto unexplored prospect, that climate change may have been accelerated by the terrible whale culls of the 20th century, which removed hundreds of thousands of these ultimate facilitators of CO2 absorption. As Greg Gatenby, the acclaimed Canadian writer on whales told me in response to the Vermont report, “about 300,000 blue whales were taken in the 20th century. If you average each whale at 100 tons, that makes for the removal from the ocean of approximately 30m tons of biomass. And that’s just for one species”.

A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. A defecating sperm whale off the coast of Sri Lanka. Photograph: Andrew Sutton There’s another irony here, too. American whaling, as celebrated in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), declined in part because of the discovery of mineral oil wells in the second half of the 19th century. One unsustainable resource – the whale oil which lit and lubricated the industrial revolution – was replaced by another. By killing so many whales, then turning to carbon-emitting mineral oil, humans created a double-whammy for climate change. (Conversely, and perhaps perversely, some US commentators have claimed that capitalism saved the whales rather than environmentalists. They contend that our use of mineral oil actually alleviated the pressure on whale populations – proof, they say, that human ingenuity has the ultimate power to solve the planet’s problems).

The 10 scientists who jointly contributed to the new paper note the benefits of “an ocean repopulated by the great whales”. Working on a whalewatching boat off Cape Cod last month, I witnessed astonishing numbers of fin whales, humpbacks and minkes feeding on vast schools of sand eels. I watched dozens of whales at a time, co-operatively hoovering up the bait – and producing plentiful clouds of poo in the process. (Having been at the receiving end of a defecating sperm whale, I can testify to its richly odiferous qualities.)

Observers in the Azores have reported similarly remarkable concentrations of cetaceans this summer. And with a 10% increase in humpback calves returning to Australian waters each year, and blue whales being seen in the Irish Sea, a burgeoning global population of cetaceans might not just be good for the whalewatching industry, they may play a significant role in the planet’s rearguard action against climate change.

It would certainly be a generous return on their part, given what we’ve inflicted on them. Indeed, as Melville imagined in his prophetic chapter in Moby-Dick, Does the Whale’s Magnitude Diminish?, the whale might yet have the last laugh, regaining its reign in a flooded world of the future to “spout his frothed defiance to the skies”.

Makah Want Another Whale

Makah whalers celebrate atop a dead gray whale in Neah Bay after the successful hunt in this May 17, 1999, photo. — Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press

Makah whalers celebrate atop a dead gray whale in Neah Bay after the successful hunt in this May 17, 1999, photo. — Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press

Makah group marks anniversary of whale hunt (AP)

…Meanwhile, federal officials are in the process of finalizing an environmental review that could lead to another hunt, the Daily News reported. The tribe is currently seeking authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries agency under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to hunt gray whales for subsistence purposes.

In 2012, NOAA scrapped a 2008 draft environmental impact statement of Makah whaling and began a new draft environmental impact statement, after new scientific information found that a group of gray whales that frequents the Washington coast may be different than the 20,000 whales that migrate past the state each year on their way between Alaskan and Mexican waters.

Donna Darm, associate deputy administrator for the NOAA’s west region, said a new statement incorporating that information should be ready for public review by the fall.

“There’s been a lot of new science that we received since the 2008 draft,” Darm told the Daily News Thursday.

That information will not necessarily affect the tribe’s hunt, but it will require that tribal hunters carefully identify what group any future whales they take come from, according to the Daily News.

“Nothing we’ve learned really changes what the tribe has proposed in the first place,” Darm said. “It just changes what we see as far as impacts.”

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140517/NEWS/305179987/makah-group-plans-to-mark-whale-hunt-anniversary-saturday-in-neah-bay

….Animal welfare and other groups decried the 1999 killing and later sued to stop the hunts.

Legal challenges then put the whale hunts on hold.

In 2004, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Makah could not obtain a waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act until an environmental assessment was prepared.

An illegal whale hunt in 2007 led to the death of gray whale and federal prison sentences for two Makah tribal members, including Johnson.

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