Five members of Washington's Makah Tribe were being held today after a harpooned California gray whale died as it headed out to sea. The AP reports that yesterday the tribesmen harpooned and shot the animal mammal with a .50 caliber machine gun. While the tribe has exercised its whaling rights for cultural purposes before, this shooting was probably illegal.
A 1999 bill allowed the Makah to hunt whales in a limited area, and the animal had to be harpooned from a canoe first, the Seattle Times notes. The bill is now tied up in the courts. "We allow native hunts for cultural purposes. However, this does not appear to be of that nature so far," said one official. (Read more whale stories.)