AUTHOR: Claudia Rowe, Seattle PI Reporter



The five members of the Makah tribe who took it upon themselves to stage an illegal, unsanctioned whale hunt in the Strait of Juan de Fuca last September have now been formally charged on a number of offenses.

Tribal charges filed





On Monday, the Makah Tribal Council announced that it had charged Wayne
Johnson, Theron Parker, Andy Noel, Bill Secor and Frankie Gonzalez with
violating state and federal laws, including the Marine Animal Protection
Act, by joining in an unsanctioned hunt for gray whales off Neah Bay on
Sept. 8. Under state and federal laws, the five members of the Makah tribe face a year in prison and may be fined $5,000 each for participating.



Hunting the federally protected mammal also violated the Makah Indian
Nation's own Gray Whale Management Plan, but tribal penalties are limited
by the Indian Civil Rights Act, according to tribal attorney John Arum.



Stiffer Federal Charges





A separate federal prosecution is also under way, however, and could result
in more stringent fines. In October, a federal grand jury indicted the five
on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy, unlawful taking of a marine mammal
and unauthorized whaling, each punishable by a maximum year in jail and
$100,000 fine.



The indictment says the men took two motorboats into the Strait of Juan de
Fuca off the tribe's reservation at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, then
repeatedly harpooned and shot a California gray whale, which lived for 12
hours before sinking to its death.



Makah council members, who have fought for years to win the legal right to
hunt whales, have denounced the hunt.



"The tribe is following through on its commitment to enforce its laws,"
tribal council member Micah McCarty said.



"We intend to cooperate with the federal government in ensuring that the
five defendants receive a fair trial and, if convicted, receive an
appropriate punishment."



All five defendants pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and have been
released on their own recognizance.



SOURCE:
P-I reporter Claudia Rowe can be reached at 206-448-8320 or [email protected].