Disappointing. Basically, it's a victory for the Makah whalers who conducted the illegal hunt.
Five Makah whalers will face fewer charges at their federal trial in April, a U.S. magistrate ruled Tuesday.
Gone is the count of violating the federal Whaling Convention Act, and with it a charge of conspiring to violate that same 1949 law.
Magistrate Judge J. Kelley Arnold quashed the indictments after hearing oral arguments from Assistant U.S. Attorney James Oesterle and from Yakima attorney Jack Fiander, one of the defendants' lawyers.
What remain are charges of conspiracy to hunt a whale and of harassing and killing the gray whale Sept. 8 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Neah Bay, a violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Conviction on each count — a misdemeanor — could carry a $100,000 fine and one-year prison term.
Photo by ricardo.martins.