An injured California gray whale was swimming out to sea Saturday after being shot with a .50-caliber machine gun off the western tip of Washington state, according to officials.
The Olympian reports that Coast Guard Petty Officer Kelly Parker said five people, who are believed to be members of the Makah Tribe shot and harpooned the whale Saturday morning. The whale's full injuries were not known.
Mark Oswell, a spokesman for the law enforcement arm of the National Marine Fisheries Service said that tribe members were being held but had not yet been charged. A preliminary report suggests the whale was shot with a .50-caliber machine gun.
The Coast Guard officials created a 1,000-yard safety zone around the injured creature. The whale had begun heading out to sea Saturday afternoon.
The tribe has subsistence fishing rights to kill whales, but the preliminary findings indicate that the whale may have been shot illegally.
"We allow native hunts for cultural purposes. However, this does not appear to be of that nature so far," he said. A call to tribal officials had not been returned on Saturday. The tribal Chairman told The Seattle Times that the tribe has been seeking an exemption from the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act so that it could take up to five gray whales a year. He also said the tribe had not yet secured that exemption for a new hunt.
It is always terrible when these creatures are killed. It is always so needless. And by machine gun? One day maybe we will learn.