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MARCH 8, 2010

BOSTON, MA - A Gloucester man was convicted today in federal court of violating the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Andrew Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA-OLE) in New England, announced today that CHRISTOPHER JACQUES, age 42, of Gloucester, pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo T. Sorokin to two misdemeanors in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

At today’s plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court that had the case proceeded to trial the Government’s evidence would have proven that on July 23, 2008, JACQUES was operating a recreational fishing boat in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts. Witnesses on nearby whale watch boats observed JACQUES operate his vessel into an area where humpback whales, a species protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, were feeding. A witness observed JACQUES operate the boat through the “bubble cloud” created by the feeding whales and strike two humpback whales with his boat. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a person “takes” a whale when they knowingly commit an act which has the potential to injure the animal.

The Honorable Leo Sorokin fined JACQUES $100 on each count and imposed a mandatory special assessment on each count. At the conclusion of the sentencing, the Government dismissed a third count. In addition, in a joint agreement between the parties, JACQUES provided the following statement:

“Christopher Jacques, having pled guilty to Counts One and Two contained in Information No. 09-10066, hereby provides the following statement to the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts. I understand that this statement can and will be provided to, among other entities, various media outlets.

I have pled guilty to two counts in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1372 (“MMPA”). In doing so, I have admitted that I knowingly “took,” as that term is defined under the MMPA, two humpback whales, while fishing in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. As the U.S. Attorney set forth in its statement of facts during the change of plea hearing, the “taking” occurred in that while fishing, I operated my vessel in a location where humpbacks were feeding and in doing so, struck two whales with my boat.

I am making this statement in order to alert all persons who fish or enjoy being in the waters off of Massachusetts that we must be, at all times, vigilant in protecting all of the marine mammal species with whom we share the waters. I am urging all persons finding themselves in similar situations to be mindful of the proximity of marine mammals and to operate any fishing vessel at a safe distance.”

The case was investigated by NOAA-OLE. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadine Pellegrini, Chief of Ortiz’s Major Crimes Unit.


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