Reviving A Whale Of A Tradition

Hoping to revive a centuries-old whaling tradition, members of the Makah Indian tribe Tuesday took to the seas—and returned empty-handed, reports CBS Affiliate KIRO-TV in Seattle.

The tradition ended more than 70 years ago after the gray whale population was decimated by commercial whaling.

The tribe’s plan is to strike a whale with a harpoon, then finish it off with a .50-caliber rifle.

Tuesday’s harpoon shot missed because "the whale rolled and the harpoon went over the top," said Keith Johnson, chairman of the Makah Whaling Commission.

The whaling crew prepared Tuesday to head back to sea for another try, but a forecast for rain and wind during the day could present a problem.

Meanwhile, two members of the anti-whaling group Sea Defense Alliance were arrested Monday for investigation of assault. One of two protest boats was seized and towed to the Coast Guard station in Neah Bay, the northernmost tip of the Lower 48 states.

Jacob Conroy, 23, of Seattle and Josh Harper, 24, of Eugene, Ore., are accused of throwing smoke bombs, shooting chemical fire extinguishers into the faces of the Makah whalers, shooting flares over the bow of the canoe and threatening the lives of the whaling crew.

"We did it for the whales," Harper said as he and Conroy were led to a sheriff's van for transport to jail in Port Angeles, about 50 miles east.

The Makah, whose whaling tradition dates back centuries, were granted the right to whale under an 1855 treaty. The hunts stopped in the 1920s because commercial whaling had brought gray whales to the brink of extinction.

When grays were taken off the Endangered Species List in 1994, the tribe moved to resume the hunts. The federal government supported their bid before the International Whaling Commission, which has banned commercial whaling since 1982.

The Makah were allocated 20 whales through 2004 — a maximum of five per year. They are prohibited from selling edible whale parts.

The tribe was cleared to whale hunt last October and was issued a 10-day hunting permit the following month.