Many native tribes once used whaling as a traditional way to support themselves. Over the years, the lack of stable populations has forced government regulations that prevent these old customs from being practiced. Still, once a particular population reaches a level whereby they are no longer considered endangered, is it more important to protect the continued growth of that whale population or to restore the hunting rights of the tribes who wish to maintain their old ways of life?
Several tribes have voluntarily abandoned the old practices in favor of helping the whales, but not all of them. Recently the grey whales of the Pacific Coast have come into the spotlight as a tribe based out of Washington state, the Makah, wishes to return to harvesting them. The numbers that were proposed as acceptable to hunt are actually quite small, only numbering 20 over the course of five years. Still, NOAA has concluded that there may be an exception that prevents the whales from being viable targets of a harvest.