Tribal whale hunters returned to the water May 29 in their continuing quest to take their first gray whale of 2000. The hunt lasted from about 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. but was unsuccessful, KIRO-TV reported. The hunt was monitored by anti-whaling protesters, but no confrontations were reported. The protesters were forced to stay outside a 500-yard moving exclusionary zone enforced by the Coast Guard. The Makah, whose reservation sits at the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, are using hunts for gray whales as a means of reviving their tribal culture. The tribe moved to resume the tradition when gray whales were taken off the Endangered Species List in 1994. The U.S. government supported their bid before the International Whaling Commission, and the tribe was allotted 20 whales through 2004. Tribal members killed one whale last year, their first in about 70 years.
Two staff members at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center are under investigation in the production of a whaling tool at the prison. A prison lathe was used to make the tool, which was confiscated as a male staffer was leaving the center, Associate Superintendent Gary Fleming said. State policy forbids use of state government resources for personal benefit. Neither employee was placed on leave or formally reprimanded but both are under investigation, he said, declining to name them. He said the staff member with the tool - 3-foot piece of metal with a sharpened tip at one end and a curved handle at the other - said it keeps a whale's mouth closed after a kill to prevent it from sinking to the bottom. Anti-whaling activists gathered near the prison May 27 to protest. The prison is about 20 miles east of the reservation. A Makah crew in May 1999 killed the tribe's first whale in more than 70 years after the tribe sought authorization from the International Whaling Commission. One family in Neah Bay has been hunting whales this spring but has yet to kill one. Keith Johnson, president of the Makah Whaling Commission, said he had no details on the tool incident.