Published on May 1st, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman0
Woman Pleads Guilty To Feeding Killer Whales In Marine Sanctuary
A California woman has pleaded guilty to illegally feeding killer whales in the wild in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Nancy Black, of Monterey, California, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), specifically, the MMPA’s feeding prohibition.
The MMPA regulations make it a crime to feed marine mammals in the wild. The prohibition applies to commercial and recreational boaters and applies to all species of marine mammals.
Killer whales (orcas) prey on gray whales in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. On the occasions when orcas manage to kill a gray whale, the pod of orcas does not always eat all the gray whale at once.
Often, portions of the carcass, including strips and chunks of blubber (some over six feet in length and weighing over a hundred pounds), remain floating or semi-submerged after a kill. Orcas and sea birds feed on these chunks of blubber while they are still available in the area.
According to the plea agreement, on or about April 25, 2004, Black was on her boat in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary when she and her assistants encountered a place where orcas had killed a gray whale calf.
She was observing the orcas as they fed on pieces of gray whale blubber that were floating in the water. In an effort to facilitate their viewing, she or her crew grabbed the blubber, cut a hole through the corner of the blubber chunk, and ran a rope through the piece of the blubber.
Shortly thereafter, they returned the blubber to the water and monitored the feeding behavior of the orcas as they ate the blubber off the rope. Black and her crew repeated the process with the rope and other pieces of the blubber.
In court papers, Black admitted that she did not have a permit that would have allowed her to engage in this conduct. She also admitted that on or about April 11, 2005, she was involved in a similar incident involving the collection of floating blubber and offering it to orcas utilizing the same rope method.
In a separate incident on or about October 24, 2005, Nancy Black met with a sanctuary officer and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) investigative agent at their offices in Monterey. The sanctuary officer was investigating a reported harassment of an endangered humpback whale earlier that month in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
The interaction with the humpback whale was filmed by one of Black’s crewmembers. Before October 24, the sanctuary officer had previously asked Black to provide the videotape of the humpback whale encounter.
Black voluntarily agreed to provide the videotape, but prior to doing so, she edited the video footage to remove several minutes that included footage of the humpback whale between two vessels that belonged to Black’s whale watching business, among other footage, and sounds. Black did not tell the officer that she had edited the tape. In filed court papers, Black admitted that by not disclosing the editing of the video, she could have impeded or influenced NOAA’s investigation into the humpback whale incident.
Sentencing in the case is set for August 6.
Source: newsroomamerica.com “Woman Pleads Guilty To Feeding Killer Whales In Marine Sanctuary,” May 1, 2013.