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May 17, 1999

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), dated September 20, 1999, requesting information pursant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). You requesteddocuments on "all of the necropsy report on the whale killed May 17, 1999 by the Makahs and I.D. photo of whale (dorsal hump area)."

A search of agency files disclose that the NMFS observer did not complete a necropsy report, nor were there any I.D. photos taken of the dorsal hump area of the whales by NMFS personnel. However, the results of the NMFS examination of the gray whale harvested by the Makah Tribe was documented on an observer report. The observer report may provide the information you were seeking from the necropsy report, and a copy is enclosed for your information.

Since the search of NMFS's files disclosed that we do not have documents which are specifically responsive to your FOIA request, this is deemed to be a partial denial of your request. In accordance with 15 CFR Section 4.8, you may appeal my decision for the partial denial withing 30 working days from the date of receipt of this letter. Your appeal must be submitted in writing to the General Counsel, Department of Commerce, Room 5879, 14th and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20230. The appeal letter and envelope should be clearly marked "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION APPEAL." You should include a copy of your initial request and any subsequent correspondence.

The Code of Federal Regulations , 15 CFR Part 4.9(b), establishes a uniform fee schedule for all FOIA requests. However, because the search and review time amounted to less that an hour, there is no charge for processing this request.

Penelpope D. Dalton
Assistant Administrator For Fisheries


In May 1999. the Makah Tribe conducted a gray whale hunt targeting northbound migrating whales in accordance with the MOU between the Makah Tribe and NOAA under the terms set out in the Management Plan for Makah Treaty Gray Whale Hunting. This report is based on observations from the NOAA vessel, Research ll which followed the Makah whaling canoe, Hummingbird, from a review of news media video which was shot from a helicopter overhead, and from an examination of the gray whale carcass during the flensing operations. The Makah Tribal Fisheries observer was also present at all times on the NOAA vessel.

The NMFS observer was contacted by whaling captain, Wayne Johnson of Saturday morning, May 8, 1999, and informed that a whaling crew was being assembled. I arrived in Neah Bay at 23:21 that night. On Sunday evening, arrangements were made to meet on the whaling grounds the following morning.

On Monday, May 10, the canoe was searching for gray whales in the vicinity of Father and Son (rock). At 12:21, a blow was seen at 48 degrees 14.037'N, 124 degrees 43.019'W. The canoe was unable to get close to this whale. The tribal hunt was impaired by anti-whaling protest boats which began harasing the Makah chase boat and the canoe, cutting across their bow and getting between the Makah boats and the whale. The Coast Guard arrived and detained the Spyhopper. At 13:44, another blow was sighted at 48 degrees 13.608'N, 124 degrees 43.346'W, but the canoe was still unable to get close to the whale.

By 15:01, the whaling party had moved south to Cape Alava at 48 degrees 10.199'N, 124 degrees 46.334'W. At 15:25, three gray whales were sighted moving north in 134 ft of water. At 15:55, a harpoon was thrown at a whale, but missed. The position was 48 degrees 09.568'N, 124 degrees 46.521'W over water 115 ft. deep. The whaling party began moving northward to Point of the Arches.

At 18:41, the hunt ended at Spike rock. The whaling crew decided to spend the night on the beach at the base of the Point of the Arches and would resume whaling in the morning.

On Tuesday, May 11, the Makah chase boat and support boat arrived around 07:00 and began searching to the north and south of the Point of the Arches for gray whales. The weather was poor. No gray whales were sighted and the canoe was towed to the north to Makah Bay. At 09:04, Wayne Johnson reported over the radio that the canoe was heading up the Sooes River and would be hauled out. No more whaling would be conducted until the weather improved.

The hunt resumed on Saturday, May 15 in the vicinity of Father and Son. At 07:46, one gray whale was sighted at 48 degrees 13.682'N, 124 degrees 43.027'W in water 87 ft deep. The canoe was unable to get close enough to this whale. At 08:00, two gray whales were sighted at 48 degrees 13.649'N, 124 degrees 43.655'W in water 95 ft deep. Again, the canoe could not get close enough to these whales to throw the harpoon. By 09:11, the Makah boats had moved to the south between Ozette Island and the Bodeltehs. After no whales had been sighted, the Makah boats began returning to the north at 09:45. Gray whales were again sighted around Father and Son Rock.

The tribal hunt was again impaired by protesters who harassed the Makah boats and gray whales.

At 11:19, the harpoon was thrown at a gray whae in water 97 ft deep at 48 degrees 12.606'N 124 degrees 43.602'W. The flukes were raised high into the air as the animal dived. It is believed that the harpoon made contact with the whale, but that the harpoon head did not penetrate the body. The tip of the wooden harpoon holder was split and presumably broke when the harpoon glanced off the body of the whale or was struck by the flukes. The harpoon throw appeared to be more parallel than perpendicular to the body of the whale. It is thought that the harpoon line tangled around a flipper, barnacle cluster, or fluke and pulled the float under water. Soon after, the float reappeared at the surface. The harpoon head was clean, showing no bits of tissue or blood. It was believed that the harpoon head could not have penetrated the body of the whale and then pulled out just by the buoyancy and resistence of the float.

At 12:21, the harpoon was thrown at a gray whale and missed. The whale was in water 74 ft deep at 48 degrees 13.295'N, 124 degrees 43.816W. At 16:42, the hunt ended at Portage Head.

On Monday, May 17, whaling resumed to the southwest of Father and Son rock. At 06:55, the canoe was pursuing a gray whale. The whale surfaced on the right side of the canoe and was moving across the bow when it was harpooned. The position of the strike was 48 degrees 13.571'N, 124 degrees 43.968;W. The gray whale continued swimming towing the canoe and two floats. At 06:58, the gunner in the chase boat fired the first shot from a .577 caliber rifle at the whale. This shot missed causing two splashes, one on either side of the whale. Also, at 06:58, the second shot was fired in a direction mid-body of the whale; the shot struck the water around ten feet from the right side of the whale and was believed to have been ineffective. At 07:01, the third shot struck the whale behind the blowhole and slightly to the left. The whale appeared to be momentarily stunned. Also at 07:01, a second harpoon was thrown at the whale, striking it on the right side towards the rear. Blood appeared in the water from this strike. At 07:03, a fourth shot was fired into the whale. The bullet struck the whale behind the blowhole slightly to the right. After this shot, the whale was no longer moving, but remained motionless at the surface. Immediately after the fourth shot was fired, a third harpoon was thrown which struck the whale on the right side. The position at 7:04 was 48 degrees 13.433'N, 124 degrees 44.535'W in water 90 ft deep.

The body of the whale sank and was supported by the lines on the 3 harpoons. Later, a diver attached a heavier line around the tail stock of the whale before it was towed to Neah Bay. The NOAA vessel returned to Neah Bay and waited for the whale to be dragged up onto the beach.

An examination of the gray whale skull after some of the blubber and muscle had been removed showed that the third shot struck a ridge of the skull on the left side shattering it, but did not penetrate into the brain case. The fourth shot struck the skull above the occipital condyle creating a hole around 3 cm high by 6 cm wide. (This hole was measured again the following day after all the blubber and muscle had been removed from the skull and found to be 4 cm. by 7.5 cm. The hole may have been enlarged by people probing into the hole.) The 4th bullet entered the brain case.

Samples collected, consisted of brain tissue, stomach contents, blubber, muscle, heart, kidney, liver, and the left ovary. Photographs were taken of the trauma to the skull.

The gray whale was a female 39 ft 5 inches in length. The mammary glands were cut open. No milk was prisent. By the clolor of the mammary glands, it appeared that the whale had not been lactating. The following measurements were taken from the whale:

dorsal blubber thickness = 17 cm
lateral blubber thickness = 9 cm
fluke width = 7 ft. 4 in
fluke notch depth = 1 ft
fluke max. depth = 2 ft 5 in
flipper outer length = 5 ft 3 in
flipper inner length = 3 ft 5 in
flipper max. width = 1 ft 8 in
tip of rostrum to blowhole = 4 ft 2 in

3rd shot to blowhole = 1 ft 11 in
3rd shot to left eye = 1 ft 3 in
depth of 3rd shot hole = 15.2 cm
4th shot to blowhole = 2 ft 4 in
4th shot to right eye = 2 ft 4 in
depth of 4th shot hole = 33.5 cm

1st harpoon hole to snout = 10 ft 6 in
2nd harpoon hole to shout = 11 ft 4 in
3rd harpoon hole to snout = 15 ft 1 in

As much meat and blubber as possible was removed from the carcass for human consumption. In addition, the tongue, heart, liver, and intestines were saved. The entire skeleton was collicted for the Makah museum.

The Makah Whaling Commission members and whaling crew were extremely cooperative and enabled the NMFS observer to collect all the information required for this report.

The NMFS observer has been employed as a Research Fisheries Biologist at the National Marine Mammal Labaratory for 23 years. From 1976 to 1982, he served as the whaling observer for the International Whaling Commission monitoring Japanese whaling operations at land stations in Japan. From 1996 to the present, he has conducted research on summering gray whales along the coast of northern Washington and southwestern Vancouver Island.

To the best of my knowledge, this is a true and accurate account of my observations of the Makah gray whale hunt.

Merrill E. Gosho


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