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Tribal Whale Hunt Can Proceed

May 18, 2002

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SEATTLE (AP) _ A federal judge has lifted a temporary restraining order barring Makah Indians from hunting gray whales, an ancient tradition that has sparked fierce opposition in recent years.

Earlier this month, Judge Franklin Burgess in Tacoma imposed a 10-day order temporarily halting the hunt. But on Friday he ruled that the opponents’ suit does not have a ``substantial likelihood″ of success.

Opponents, he ruled, have not shown that ``irreparable injury″ will occur if the hunts proceed.

A spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Fund for Animals said the activists’ litigation would continue.

``It’s not a resolution of the merits of our case, and we’re still hopeful and going forward,″ Michael Markarian said.

The Makah’s right to whale is outlined in an 1855 treaty. The tribe moved to resume the hunt when the whales were taken off the Endangered Species List in 1994.

After making their case to the International Whaling Commission, Makah whalers were allocated 20 whales through 2002, but no more than five per year. They killed one on May 17, 1999, their first in more than 70 years.

They tried again in the spring of 2000, but were unsuccessful. There was no whaling last year, while a court-ordered environmental study was under way. That study cleared the hunts to resume. The National Marine Fisheries Service said the study showed that allowing the Makah to hunt no more than five gray whales per year would not harm a population of 26,000 whales.

Attorney Marc Slonim, who argued for the tribe before Burgess, said Friday’s ruling clears the way ``for the tribe to issue permits to whaling captains that want to hunt, that want to take out a crew.″

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On the Net:

NMFS: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov

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