SEATTLE – The Makah Tribe in northwest Washington will make its case starting tomorrow in federal court in Seattle as to why they should be able to resume hunting a limited number of gray whales for ceremonial and subsistence purposes.

The tribe, which has an historic tradition as whale hunters, is asking for a waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to be permitted to take 2-3 whales per year.

Opposing them in court will be wildlife advocates including Sea Shepherd, The Animal Welfare Institute and Peninsula Citizens for the Protection of Whales.

The tribe does have a significant supporter on their side who will advocate for their case. A representative from the NOAA Fisheries will speak tomorrow on their behalf.

NOAA Public Affairs Officer Michael Milstein explains.

“That is the case. NOAA has proposed to provide them that waiver to allow the hunt to take place. We’ve gone through very detailed planning and description of the proposed regulations that would govern a hunt. And in addition the tribe has that…their treaty provides the right to hunt whales, and so that’s a factor as well.”

Milstein says his agency will tell the court that gray whale populations are healthy and would not affected by a limited hunt of 2-3 whales per year.

The hearing is expected to last about a week and a decision is expected within a few weeks after that.