Whale of a Story

Published February 16, 2012

A California marine biologist was indicted last month on federal criminal charges for feeding whales, which is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The biologist is federally licensed to conduct public whale-watching tours. She also researches whale behavior for her own projects. She was out on her research boat with her assistants one day when a pack of killer whales attacked a pod of gray whales and killed a calf.

She saw the killer whales were feeding on the dead calf’s blubber. So the biologist threaded some of the calf blubber through ropes and lowered it to the killer whales along with cameras to record the killer whales’ behavior while feeding.

She said she used protocols she learned from federal agencies charging her “to observe a natural feeding that was already in progress.” The federal law is supposed to stop the killing of whales, dolphins, and seals, but it also prohibits feeding them because it might inhibit foraging for their own food in the wild.

She also gave prosecutors one of her edited videotapes, which she produces commercially, and prosecutors say she tampered with evidence.

If convicted, she faces a prison term of up to 20 years and fines of $500,000.

Source: “Another one in the net; Thou shalt not watch whales eating,” The Economist, January 14, 2012 h/t overlawyered