Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to a variety of protected marine species, including everything from otters to kelp forests and underwater canyons. One of the larger species of marine life that lives in the 4,601 square nautical miles that the sanctuary encompasses is the killer whale. What many Californians may not be aware of, however, is that feeding one of 13 specifically protected animal species, particularly killer whales, within the sanctuary is actually against the law, as one famous marine biologist found out recently.
Authorities say that 50-year-old (name withheld to protect the anonymity of the accused) should have known better than to illegally feed the killer whales in Monterey Bay, charged with animal cruelty (CA Penal Code 597). Why? Well, among other things, she is the proprietor of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, a whale-watching business. She therefore must have been aware of the fact that feeding a killer whale is a misdemeanor charge, an infringement upon the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Now, she faces a $12,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.
It wasn’t the first time she had come up against this particular law. She’d already admitted having given food to the protected species on at least 2 other occasions. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (otherwise known as MMPA) was originally enacted in October of 1972 and, as it turns out, she seems to have gotten away with a pretty small fine and sentence. According to the MMPA, fines can reach up to $100,000 for ignoring the law and an individual might find themselves in prison for 1 year for individuals. If a corporation or other organization violates the law, fines may reach $200,000 and forfeiture of cargo if committed using a seafaring vessel.