LOS ANGELES – A one-time resident of Santa Barbara County pleaded guilty today to a federal criminal charge for fatally shooting an elephant seal on a beach near San Simeon.
Jordan Gerbich, 30, formerly of Santa Maria, now a resident of Utah, pleaded guilty via videoconference to a single-count information charging him with taking a marine mammal.
Gerbich admitted in his plea agreement that he drove to an elephant seal viewing area adjacent to the Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine sanctuary near San Simeon on September 28, 2019. Gerbich brought a .45-caliber pistol and, aided with a flashlight, used the firearm to shoot and kill a northern elephant seal. The next day, the elephant seal was discovered on the beach with a bullet hole in its head.
Northern elephant seals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They live up and down North America’s Pacific coast and haul out on land in areas called rookeries. These rookeries are typically populated with elephant seals year-round, but populations vary throughout the year based on breeding and molting cycles.
United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer has scheduled an April 12, 2021 sentencing hearing, at which time Gerbich will face a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.
This matter was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement with substantial assistance provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Heather C. Gorman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.