California man sentenced for fatally shooting elephant seal

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A Santa Barbara man was sentenced today to three months in federal prison for shooting a northern elephant seal to death on a San Simeon beach, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced Monday.

(Courtesy of the U.S. Justice Dept.)

30-year-old Jordan Gerbich, who now lives in Utah, allegedly drove to an elephant seal viewing area in September of 2019. Prosecutors say he used a .45-caliber pistol and a flashlight to shoot a northern elephant seal in the head as it rested on the beach in the Piedras Blancas rookery.

“It remains unclear what motivated [Gerbich] to commit such an act; nevertheless, [Gerbich] knew it was wrong,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

In December of 2020, Gerbich pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally taking a marine mammal. He was sentenced to three months in federal prison by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who also added one year of supervised release, 120 hours of community service, a three-month term of home detention, and a $1000 fine.

Northern elephant seals, which are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, live up and down California’s pacific coast, spending their time on land areas called rookeries. Elephant Seals breed annually while remaining faithful to colonies with established breeding areas.

Gerbich’s case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from The California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Gerbich was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Heather C. Gorman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.

(Headline photo courtesy of ElephantSeal.org)

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