NOAA Fisheries offers reward for information on elephant seal shooting

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement has offered a $20,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the punishment (civil penalty or criminal conviction) of the person responsible for the shooting death of a northern elephant seal near San Simeon.

The elephant seal’s remains were found on Sept. 29, 2019 near a “popular viewing area along California Highway 1,” according to NOAA Fisheries. It was reportedly shot in the head. The seal’s tail fins were also cut off and its chest cavity was cut open, NOAA Fisheries’ staff added.

“A bullet was found in the seal and is awaiting forensic analysis,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement.

Elephant seals are often observed on a stretch of beach alongside Highway 1 near San Simeon, a small town north of Morro Bay and south of Monterey.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act, a federal law, protects elephant seals, sea lions and other marine mammals. Anyone who violates the federal law could face civil penalties (up to $28,520 per count) and up to one year in prison. Those convicted could also be subject to criminal fines and forfeiture of vehicles or vessels (if used in the commission of the crime).

“The Act prohibits harassment, hunting, capturing, or killing of marine mammals. However, the law allows for non-lethal methods to deter marine mammals from damaging private property, including fishing gear and catch, so long as it does not result in the death or serious injury of an animal,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a released statement.

Northern elephant seals, which spend most of the year at sea, come ashore twice a year at places such as Piedras Blancas, which is near San Simeon.

“Commercial hunting pushed the species close to extinction around 1900 but the population has since recovered,” NOAA Fisheries staff said.

Please call the investigating agent at 831-647-4203 or NOAA Fisheries’ 24/7 Hotline at 800-853-1964 if you have any information about the shooting of the elephant seal near San Simeon.

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