WASHINGTON — Christopher Kevin Weaver, a charter boat captain from Panama City, Fla. pleaded guilty today to one misdemeanor count of violating the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Justice Department announced. Weaver faces a maximum one year in prison and/or a $100,000 fine for knowingly and unlawfully shooting at one or more dolphins in U.S. waters.
On Oct. 13, 2005, Weaver was the captain of the LEO TOO, a charter fishing vessel operating out of Treasure Island Marina, Panama City Beach, Fla. During the course of a deep-sea fishing trip, Weaver watched a dolphin grab a fish that one of his fishing clients had hooked. Weaver, who was on the bridge of the LEO TOO, fired a .357 caliber handgun at the dolphin while it was in the water near the boat. When the LEO TOO moved to another fishing spot, Weaver again shot at one or more dolphins. It is unknown whether his shots struck any of the dolphins.
The MMPA prohibits the taking of any marine mammal, including dolphins, in waters or lands under the jurisdiction of the United States. “Take” as defined in the Act, means to harass, hunt, capture or kill; or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. “Harassment,” also defined by the Act, means any act, pursuit, torment or annoyance which has the potential to injure a marine mammal in the wild or has the potential to disturb a marine mammal by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but no limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding or sheltering.
Sentencing is set for Oct. 10, 2006 in Panama City, Fla. The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement and prosecuted by Mary Dee Carraway, Trial Attorney for the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.