Conservation group calls for charges in whale killing
A Canadian conservationistis calling on the U.S. government to lay charges after a grey whale was killed in coastal waters off Washington State near Vancouver Island.
Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said the Saturday morningharpooning and shooting was illegal because the Makah tribe is only allowed to kill migrant whales, and the tribal hunters killed a resident grey whale.
The whale was harpooned and shot at about 9:30 a.m. PT Saturday and died 10 hours later, Watson said.
Earlier reports from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service that the hunters had used a machine-gun were incorrect.Jeff Pollinger, a petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard in Seattle,told CBC News Monday that a large-calibre riflewas used.
Watson said if authorities don't lay federal charges, his group will take matters into their own hands.
"If the [U.S.] federal government fails to lay charges then we may have to bring suit against the federal government to force the charges to be laid," Watson told CBC News Sunday. "Otherwise, this will be a clear green light for this kind of activity to continue."
An American fisheries official said Sunday it appeared to have been the actions of a rogue group of tribal members and not sanctioned by Makah leadership.
Five members of the Makah tribe near the village of Neah Bay were picked up by theU.S.Coast Guard and handed over to the Makah tribal police. They remained in tribal police custody Monday.
The Makah are related to the Nuu-chah-nulth in British Columbia. Nuu-chah-nulth's hereditary Chief Shawn Atleo said Monday it's important to remember that whaling may be an explosive issue, but the Makah do have treaty rights to capture whales.
"It's inextricably linked to myself, my land, [and] the people that I represent,"Atleo told CBC News.
"Even though I don't practise it, I like to …recognize still that we have that right. We just choose right now not to exercise it for a number of reasons," he said.