LOS ANGELES – A Santa Barbara County man was charged today with fatally shooting a northern elephant seal on a beach near San Simeon.
Jordan Gerbich, 30, of Santa Maria, is charged in an information with one count of taking a marine mammal.
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.
In September 2019, the corpse of a northern elephant seal was found on a beach near San Simeon close to a popular viewing area along California Highway 1 where visitors can observe elephant seals. The animal had been shot in the head. Gerbich is charged with fatally shooting the mammal on September 28, 2019.
An information contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of the misdemeanor offense alleged in the information, Gerbich would 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.