SEATTLE, Sept. 10 — The gray whale, harpooned and shot many times, lies dead at the bottom of the ocean somewhere in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Five Makah tribal members accused of killing it have been arrested. Embarrassed tribal leaders have denounced the killing and sent representatives to Washington to assure the state’s politicians that the hunt was not approved.
Gov. Christine Gregoire added her condemnation.
Perhaps worst for the tribe, the hunt has complicated its quest to return to whaling, an effort the tribe has been waging in court for years.
The hunt began around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, when five tribal members boarded two boats in search of whales seen offshore, the Coast Guard said. When they finished hours later, a 40-foot-long gray whale had been harpooned and shot an estimated 20 times off Neah Bay in the northern reaches of the Washington coast, before the Coast Guard surrounded the animal and detained the hunters.
The Coast Guard cut the whale loose, and it drifted with the current until it died early Saturday evening and sank in 500 feet of water.
The five men were turned over to tribal authorities.
The hunt sent reverberations throughout the tribe, which has been fighting in court for nearly 10 years over the right to hunt whales.
The last time a Makah killed a whale was in 1999, and that was despite protests of animal rights groups that tried to sabotage the hunt.
The killing led to a court fight over the right to hunt whales, as the tribe had done for centuries before commercial whalers all but eradicated the population by the 1930s.
The 1999 hunt included stringent federal guidelines that were ignored last Saturday, including using a canoe and having a federal observer in place.
All five men were released after spending much of Saturday evening in jail. A statement by the tribe said all were booked at the Makah jail but gave no indication of the charges.
The statement also denounced the actions of the whalers, saying that they took it on themselves to conduct the hunt and that it was a “blatant violation of our law.”
On Sunday, the hunt leader, Wayne Johnson, told The Seattle Times that he was unapologetic and in fact wished that he had done it sooner. Mr. Johnson was among the hunters who killed a whale in the 1999 hunt.
On Monday, Ms. Gregoire said she was “very upset” by the killing, which did not even benefit the poor of the tribe.
“Not only did we lose a very important species here, but that is now sitting at the bottom of the water,” she said at her weekly meeting with reporters. “It does nothing. And it flies in the face of the law.”
Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said that an environmental impact statement in the Makah legal fight had been due this fall, but that the whale kill would no doubt cause delays.
“I don’t know how long this is going to take,” Mr. Gorman said.
Paul Watson, president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which opposed the 1999 hunt, likened the killing to the cruel treatment of dogs in the case of the football star Michael Vick and said the Makah hunters should be prosecuted.
The United States attorney’s office here said the whale killing could result in a year in jail and a $20,000 fine.
“The whale suffered for hours before finally dying,” Mr. Watson said, “and there can be no justification for their cruelty and contemptuous indifference to the law.”