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Press Release

Brinnon Resident Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking Protected Narwhal Tusks

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Defendant Trafficked Marine Mammal Parts Worth as much as $400,000

          A 64-year-old resident of Brinnon, Jefferson County, Washington was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to six months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $25,000 fine for trafficking ivory from protected species, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  DAVID L. BOONE, who operates Boone Trading Company, participated in an operation that illegally smuggled narwhal tusks taken from the threatened Arctic whales into the United States from Canada.  BOONE also trafficked in sperm whale teeth and walrus tusks.  The purchase and sale of these items is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty that regulates trade in species whose survival is threatened by trade, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton imposed the sentence.


            “We have an obligation to the international community to prosecute those who seek to profit from illegal trafficking in protected species such as the magnificent narwhal,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “I join those who had a part in this investigation in reminding anyone who chooses to put selfish profit above protection of the earth’s threatened species – we will devote the resources necessary to finding and holding accountable anyone responsible for this kind of despicable crime.”


            “We commend the Department of Justice and all other agencies that played a role in aiding this investigation and prosecution,” said Edward Grace, Acting Chief of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The illegal wildlife trade is a $20 billion industry that is rapidly driving elephants and many other animals to extinction. The Service will continue to use every tool at its disposal to fight the trafficking scourge and bring to justice the individuals who are depriving our planet of these magnificent creatures for their own profit.”


            According to records filed in the case, between 2006 and 2008, BOONE purchased narwhal tusks from a Canadian and a resident of Tennessee.  Narwhals are Arctic whales often called the ‘Unicorn of the Sea’ because of their prominent tusk.  While native Inuit of northern Canada are allowed to hunt narwhal, it is illegal to import tusks into the United States.  BOONE purchased tusks knowing they had been smuggled across the border from Canada.   He then sold the tusks on the black market at a huge profit.


            Additionally, in October 2011 BOONE sold sperm whale teeth to an undercover law enforcement officer, and in February 2012 bought and sold a walrus skull and tusks.  The transactions were illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.


            The Canadian exporter of the narwhal tusks plead guilty to multiple counts of money laundering and was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine to more than 5 years in prison.  In addition to BOONE, three other United States citizens were prosecuted and convicted for their participation in the narwhal tusk smuggling scheme - one in the District of Maine, and one each in the Districts of Massachusetts and Alaska.


            The court directed that the $25,000 criminal fine be paid to the Lacey Act Reward Fund.  Monies deposited into this Fund are used to reward persons who furnish information leading to successful enforcement actions against those who traffic in illegally taken fish and wildlife. 


            The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James Oesterle.



Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated September 20, 2017