Five Incompetent Makah Make a Mockery of Traditional Whaling

Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The Makah tribe situated at Cape Flattery, Washington pride themselves on being a traditional whaling people. For centuries Makah whalers were the most respected members of their tribe and harpoons and lances were family heirlooms. The Makah whalers were esteemed individuals within their culture because they were the men who fed their people by going to sea in small canoes to hunt the whales with hand held harpoons. They were men who took their hunting seriously, who made the sacred sacrifices and endured the rituals required of traditional whalers. In short they were brave men who were valiant heroes to their people. Theirs was a living culture of a proud and courageous people who lived off the sea.

And now five extremely inept members of the tribe, men who reportedly were considered the most competent and skilled modern whalers of their people have together displayed an exhibition of gross dishonor, unbelievable disrespect and colossal incompetence with their cruel and tragic murder of a defenseless gray whale. 

I have known these men for over a decade and all of them can be described in one word and that word is "thug." Not once have I ever seen Wayne Johnson speak with reverence for the whales or traditional beliefs. I have heard him boast about being a big game hunter and bragging about shooting his .50 caliber anti-tank gun. He was the man in a large steel boat that used this "traditional" weapon to kill a baby gray whale in May 1999 after Theron Parker stuck a harpoon in its back from a canoe towed by another motorized vessel. Outfitted in wetsuits and communicating with two way radios they killed the whale, towed it to the beach in Neah Bay and then went out to drink some beers and party leaving the whale carcass on the beach for kids to crawl over and Federal government biologists to clean up. Most of the meat ended up in a dump site and the body was towed out to the bay and sunk so that scavengers could clean the bones so the "trophy" skeleton could be placed on display in the Makah museum.

It was a travesty then and numerous Makah Elders were horrified and a few were outspoken about the disrespect shown to the whale and were punished by the thugs for doing so. One Makah Elder had her dog killed, the windows on her home broken and her grandson beaten up.

Since that day Parker and Johnson have flown at government expense to the Faeroe Islands, Norway and Iceland to study whaling. They have traveled to Siberia and Alaska to learn how to "efficiently" kill whales. They have had a decade of education in the "art" of whale slaughter and despite this they will go down in history as the men who inflicted the most torturous death on a whale in history. 

They will also go down in history as the most incompetent whalers to have ever put to sea. Parker and Johnson and their three criminal colleagues will be known as the whalers who couldn't shoot straight and their story will be enshrined in the legends of the Olympic Peninsula as a comedy of bungling errors and sheer idiocy.

If not for the horrendous agony they inflicted upon a defenseless whale, this misadventure at sea would be hilarious. Straight out of a television sitcom mixing the incompetence of the Office with the silliness of the Beverly Hillbillies

The Parker Johnson approach to whaling seems to have been learned from Abbott and Costello. This dynamic duo and their three stooges decided one morning a few months ago to load up their boat with guns and harpoons and go out and get themselves a whale. Not that it would be difficult. A number of Gray whales could be found on any given day just outside the harbor of Neah Bay peacefully feeding and lazily swimming close to the shore. 

The unsuspecting whale had no reason to fear the approach of the boat. After all, the whale had been in these waters for years without threat. People and boats were harmless. So when Parker drove the first harpoon into the whale's back, the whale screamed in pained surprise and jerked on the line causing Wayne Johnson to drop the .50 caliber gun into the sea. In desperation the shocked amateur whalers sank three more harpoons into the whale and then they opened fire with a .460 Magnum rifle shooting 16 bullets into the whale's body and failing to hit a vital organ. 

Alerted by the gunfire, the U.S. Coast Guard arrived on the scene to find the whale bleeding and gasping and the whalers sitting in their boat helplessly watching the whale thrash about in abject agony. They had run out of ammunition.  It took ten long agonizing hours for the whale to die. The Coast Guard was stuck with the task of getting permission to euthanize the whale but because killing a whale is a federal crime, the Coast Guard was reluctant to put an end to the misery of the animal without permission from the National Marine Fisheries Service. It took hours to obtain the official permission to euthanize the whale and by that time the poor creature had bled to death.

The whale's body sank to the ocean floor. Its life had been wasted because five men with some serious neurotic afflictions felt they had a need to prove their manliness by slaughtering an innocent creature. The local newspaper reported that, "There's only one reason this whale suffered: It was deliberately attacked by five incompetents in violation of the law. Their vaunted whaling expertise wasn't up to making a quick kill or even keeping their gun from tumbling into the deep. The result was a prolonged spectacle of human cruelty. A rat shouldn't have to die like that, let alone a whale under the protection of the U.S. government."

For years the argument has been raised that the Makah should be allowed to exercise their "rights" to kill whales. Not because there is subsistence need but because they insist they must have a cultural need to kill whales. Killing whales is what defines them as a people some of the Makah whalers have said.

But these five Makah whalers have demonstrated that they can't even kill a whale with modern weapons and modern boats. They have made a mockery of the traditions of their ancestors whose whaling was inspired by necessity and whose expertise with primitive weapons puts to shame the stumbling oafish behavior of these five moronic nimrods from Neah Bay. 

As one Makah Elder said in 1998, "it was part of our tradition to wave baskets and to pick berries in the mountains. It is part of our tradition to speak the Makah language. These guys don't want to do any of this; they simply want to kill a whale with a big gun."

In fact Wayne Johnson had a jacket made up with the logo of Makah .50 caliber Hunt Club emblazoned on the back. The five have been charged by the U.S. government with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They have not been charged with violating Makah tribal law for killing a whale without a permit from the Tribe.

And these five men were not just any five incompetents, cowardly blasting away at the defenseless whale. These were the men who were supposedly trained to lead the Makah whaling operations. If these five were the best of the Makah whalers and they failed to kill the whale humanely and efficiently then how can the Makah have any credibility in promoting a tribal whaling operation?