A United States federal judge has rejected activists’ call for a halt to Makah whaling until their lawsuit challenging the hunt is resolved, AP reports. Judge Franklin Burgess’ ruling in Tacoma, Washington, came on the third anniversary of the tribe’s first successful gray-whale hunt in decades, on May 17, 1999. Earlier this month, he imposed a 10-day temporary restraining order that remained in effect until Friday’s ruling.

Burgess said the plaintiffs had not proven “irreparable injury” would occur if the hunts proceed. “The record suggests that the only potential hardship facing the plaintiffs is the potential for aesthetic, emotional and economic harms,” he wrote. “While the court is sensitive to plaintiffs’ concerns, these concerns are outweighed by the Makah Tribe’s rights under the Treaty of Neah Bay.” The tribe’s 1855 treaty is unique in protecting its centuries-old whaling tradition. Tribal whaling stopped in the early 20th century after world whale populations had been decimated in pursuit of whale oil. The Makah moved to resume the hunts after gray whales – whose population of about 26,000 may be the largest ever – were taken off the Endangered Species List in 1994.