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Officials propose plan for Washington tribe to resume hunting whales

Federal officials Thursday proposed a plan to grant a Washington-based Native American tribe's request to resume hunting whales.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed creating an exception to the Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA) for the Makah tribe to be able to hunt gray whales for a 10-year period.

The submitted rules would limit the tribe to no more than three whale kills per year in even-numbered years, and only one whale kill per year in odd-numbered years.

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The MMPA waiver is subject to a public hearing before an administrative law judge on Aug. 12 in federal court in Seattle.

The Makah tribe has historically harvested stranded whales and also hunted whales, but it hasn’t done so legally since 1999.

In 2007, five Makah members illegally hunted and killed a grey whale, and two were put in jail.

The controversy over the Makah's right to whale stems from their 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay with the U.S. government.

In exchange for ceding 300,000 acres of territory to the U.S., the Makah tribe was given the right to hunt whales and seals in Neah Bay.

The Makah formally requested an exception from the MMPA, which bans whale hunting, because of their treaty rights in 2005.