AWI eAlert: Illegal Whale Hunt Requires Independent Investigation

October 16th, 2007 4:40 pm by Kelly Garbato

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From: AWI eAlert – ealert [at] awionline.org
Date: Oct 12, 2007 3:50 PM
Subject: AWI eAlert: Illegal Whale Hunt Requires Independent Investigation

Animal Welfare Institute

Illegal Whale Hunt Requires Independent Investigation

October 12, 2007

Last month, five members of the Makah tribe illegally attacked a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State. Piercing the whale with five to 10 harpoons and firing up to 21 bullets, the Makah whalers violated multiple federal laws. Some 10 excruciating hours later, the whale died and sank into the depths of the ocean. Nicknamed “Kelpie” by local residents, the whale had a habit of playing in kelp forests and frequently surfaced covered with kelp. Kelpie provided countless hours of enjoyment to those who reside and enjoy recreational activities in the area.

The Makah Tribal Council and its whaling commission have said that they knew nothing about the illegal whale hunt. Yet, the tribe’s chairman has said that the perpetrators of this crime had been talking about the hunt days before it occurred, and the head of the tribe’s whaling commission approved access to the high-caliber weapon used to shoot the whale. In addition, two of the men who participated in the hunt were whaling commission members. Makah leaders have stated several times that those involved in the illegal hunt will be prosecuted in tribal court, but not a single charge has been filed, to date.

Though the Makah tribe has repeatedly referred to its cultural connection to whales to justify its desire to whale, the tribe does not have a legitimate subsistence need to whale and, therefore, can’t satisfy either U.S. or international legal standards to engage in aboriginal subsistence whaling. Whaling for only cultural reasons is not permitted.

Those responsible for the illegal hunt violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Whaling Convention Act, and a host of other federal laws, including the maritime laws administered by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and laws protecting public health and safety. The federal government, under the direction of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), is investigating and the U.S. Attorney recently announced that a federal grand jury had indicted the five whalers on three federal misdemeanor charges. Considering the ongoing efforts by NMFS to facilitate the Makah’s desire to whale and the appointment by NMFS of a Makah tribal member – John Haupt – as its lead investigator, the results of any NMFS investigation is highly questionable.

Please help us press the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington to call for an independent investigation of this illegal whaling incident and to push for the prosecution of the whalers to the fullest extent for violating federal laws. Please send an e-mail (see sample e-mail below) or call them to insist that an independent investigation by the FBI or other non-partisan agency is essential because NMFS has an obvious conflict of interest and can’t both support Makah whaling and investigate an incident of illegal whaling by Makah tribal members. Please make calls and send e-mails as soon as possible, as an independent investigation must be initiated soonest before memories fade and potential evidence disappears.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this serious matter, and for asking your friends, relatives and colleagues to act as well.

Sincerely,
Cathy Liss
President

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Sample E-mail:

[Insert Date]

Acting U.S. Attorney General Peter D. Keisler
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Tel: (202) 514-2000
E-mail: AskDOJ [at] usdoj.gov

and

Mr. Jeffrey Sullivan, U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington
700 Stewart Street, Suite 5220
Seattle, WA 98101-1271
Tel: (206) 553-7970
E-mail: emily.langlie [at] usdoj.gov

Dear Mr. Keisler, Mr. Sullivan [If possible e-mail separate letters to each person]:

Only weeks ago, five members of the Makah tribe pursued and brutally killed a gray whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in northwest Washington State. This hunt was blatantly illegal and violated several federal laws including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Whaling Convention Act. In addition, by carelessly firing a large caliber weapon in the vicinity of recreational boaters and near a populated shoreline, these individuals compromised public health and safety.

I understand that the Makah Tribal Council has explained that it was unaware of and did not approve this hunt. In addition, Council members have repeatedly claimed that these individuals will be prosecuted under tribal laws in tribal court. I trust that the Makah tribe will punish these individuals through their system of tribal justice though I am concerned that, to date, no tribal charges have been filed.

I also understand that the National Marine Fisheries Service is the lead agency responsible for investigating this incident. The role of NMFS in this investigation is of considerable concern to me given its close relationship to the Makah tribe and its efforts, spanning more than a decade, to facilitate the tribe’s whaling plans. Moreover, shockingly I have learned that the lead NMFS investigator on this case, a Mr. John Haupt, is a member of the Makah tribe. Notwithstanding Mr. Haupt’s abilities as an investigator, this appears to represent a serious conflict of interest. Another federal agency, preferably the Federal Bureau of Investigation, must be called in to conduct an independent investigation of the case.

Therefore, I strongly encourage the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney of Washington State to demand that an additional investigation be undertaken by another agency – preferably the FBI – as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Animal Welfare Institute | PO Box 3650 | Washington | DC | 20027

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