Did the Makah Kill JJ?

May 21, 1999 -- JJ the famous Gray whale may have been saved by one group of humans when she found herself stranded on a California beach 30 months ago, only to be killed by another group of humans after being returned to the sea. The possibility was raised today in a release by whale activists who demanded that the US National Marine Fisheries Service conduct DNA tests on tissue taken from the whale slaughtered by the Makah on May 17th.

"The whale butchered by the Makah fits the profile of JJ very closely" said Mark Berman of San Francisco's Earth Island Institute. "A female, she was about 3 years old, so was JJ. She was obviously familiar with humans, so was JJ. The possibility therefore exists that the Makah killed JJ. We feel it is now incumbent on NMFS to find out whether or not this whale was JJ. They have the tissue so they can easily do the DNA tests and compare the results with DNA tests of JJ's blood while she was at Sea World. Then we'll know."

Long time whale researcher Dr. Paul Spong of Canada's OrcaLab concurred. "The whale harpooned by the Makah swam right over to the boat, so it was simple for them to stick the harpoon in," said Spong. "The chances are this was one of the friendly grays that whale watchers love to touch, but because of her age and sex she could have been JJ."

The "friendly" gray whales referred to by Spong are the whales that migrate annually to the lagoons of Baja, Mexico to have their babies. Over the last two decades a thriving whale watching industry has developed around the whales' habit, and dozens boats take whale watchers from all over the world out to see the whales. Many of the whales have become so accustomed to people that they seek out contact, rubbing their bodies on boat bottoms and soliciting touching by people.

"In the bad old days the whalers called gray whales 'Devil Fish' because they used to attack people trying to harm them," said Berman. "Now they love people, or at least they have a very friendly attitude towards us. What a way to treat a friend."

Earth Island Institute

For a different perspective, see the Makah website.

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