North Pacific gray whales could be the future target of hunters after a report released by NOAA suggested several plans for allowing the hunt by the Makah Indian tribe.

North Pacific gray whales have widely been seen as one of the most challenged species in the Pacific waters as it relates to hunters compromising the population. However, a new study released from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration might have put these whales back in the sights of hunters in the Pacific Northwest. NOAA released a series of potential solutions for what has to this point been an outright ban on whaling by the Makah Indian tribe in the Pacific Northwest, and most-specifically Washington.

Donna Darm of the Associated Press pointed out, “This is a first step in a public process that could eventually lead to authorization for the tribe to hunt gray whales.” The report outlines a total of six potential ways that NOAA officials could proceed in terms of policing or regulating the hunting of North Pacific gray whales. The end results, according to officials, would mean that it would become legal to harvest as many as 24 whales per six year period – which could put significant stress on the species as a whole.

The Makah Indian tribe have been vocal in their desire create hunting regulation that would at least allow the whales to be hunted. If nothing else, many wanted to see an increase in the hunting period – or the creation of a season that would allow tribal members to actually take advantage of a food source, and life support feature that has existed for generations within the Makah tribe.

Timothy Greene of the Makah Tribal Council pointed out that “We are happy that we have reached this point.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a sure thing at this very moment. In fact, there is still significant chance that it doesn’t pan out at all. Especially given the fact that opponents of whaling as a whole, are voicing very strong concern with the way this entire situation is being handled.

DJ Schubert, a biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute, pointed out that “whaling is inherently cruel,” and something that those who are considered activists in the space are constantly looking to stop. The AWI even went on to point out that it isn’t a point of contention with the Makah culture or traditions, but rather a matter of practical safety for whales, and the overall safety of the species as far as the population is concerned.

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