WASHINGTON — A man was charged Tuesday with shooting and killing a northern elephant seal on a beach in California, according to prosecutors.
Jordan Gerbich, 30, of Santa Maria, is charged with taking a marine mammal, a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The elephant seal was found shot in the head on September 29, 2019, on a beach near San Simeon close to a popular viewing area along California Highway 1.
Northern elephant seals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act because commercial hunting nearly pushed the species to extinction around 1900, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The seal population has since recovered.
NOAA offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information about who shot and killed the seal. Officials have not said what lead to Gerbich's arrest.
Prosecutors said this case was investigated by the NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement with assistance from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
If convicted, Gerbich would face a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.