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Contesting LeviathanActivists, Hunters, and State Power in the Makah Whaling Conflict$
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Les Beldo

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226657370

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226657547.001.0001

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The Science Has Ruled

The Science Has Ruled

(p.137) Six The Science Has Ruled
Contesting Leviathan

Les Beldo

University of Chicago Press

Antiwhaling activists in the Makah whaling conflict are driven by moral and aesthetic arguments against whaling as well as a stated desire to “speak for the whales.” How does one convince others not to harm something because they find it beautiful or magnificent? This would be difficult in any case, but it is nearly impossible within the moral economy of NMFS. Whales may have served as charismatic icons of the global environmental movement since its emergence, the imperative to “save them” a metonymic rallying cry for the Earth in its entirety, but the US federal government continues to manage whales as if they were large fish. For the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency charged with overseeing Makah whaling, whales exist not as individual beings but as natural resources and fungible elements of statistical models—in short, as "stocks." Out of a sense of practical necessity, antiwhaling activists in the Makah whaling conflict have adapted their tactics to fit within the language and logics of federal fisheries management. This engagement with the state’s interpretive framework comes at a cost, however, as it tacitly affirms a moral economy of stock-based management that excludes the activists’ preservationist aims in the long run.

Keywords:   antiwhaling, activism, aesthetics, technocracy, bureaucracy, moral economy, fisheries management, National Marine Fisheries Service

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