Five members of an American Indian tribe are accused of shooting a gray whale with a high-caliber rifle during a rogue hunt last month.
An indictment charged the five Makah tribe members with conspiracy, unlawful taking of a marine mammal and unauthorized whaling.
"The charges brought today are the most serious available to the government in this case," U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said at a news conference.
The charges are all misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $100,000 (70,876 EUR) fine.
On Sept. 9, the five members harpooned the California gray whale near the tribe's reservation, then shot it.
The killing was a public relations disaster for the tribe, which had been working with federal authorities to arrange a legal hunt. Makah officials rushed to Washington, D.C., to assure the government they did not approve.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969