Two Oregon Men Face Federal Chargesby Associated Press
SEATTLE -- Two Oregon men face criminal charges in federal court for shooting a sea lion last year on the Washington state side of the Columbia River, where both the men and sea lions were salmon fishing.
"They were caught because they were reported by another fisherman," said spokesman Lawrence Lincoln in the office of U.S. Attorney John McKay.
"They probably just assumed every other fisherman out there felt the same way they did. But at least one didn't, because someone called authorities."
The two men from Astoria, Ore. - Richard V. North, 45, an aluminum-boat builder, and Rodney D. Watson, 35, a logger - were each charged with a single misdemeanor count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The violation carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
The Justice Department says North and Watson were sport fishing for salmon in March 2002 when they shot at sea lions that were feeding in the area.
They took turns firing a .22 caliber rifle at the animals, which were foraging for fish nearby. North shot one of the sea lions in the head, causing the animal to thrash about and bleed profusely. The sea lion dove and surfaced several times before disappearing.
Sea lions, which range up and down the West Coast, are protected from harassment and killing by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Special agents of the National Marine Fisheries Service led the investigation. McKay's office and the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section of the U.S. Department of Justice are prosecuting the case.
In September, an Olympia man was fined $7,000 for killing a California sea lion on the Lewis River last spring. That fine was one of the largest ever imposed in the Northwest under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The defendant told law-enforcement agents he shot the sea lion because it was eating young salmon and interfering with fishing.
In addition to the federal fine, the man pleaded guilty to illegally hunting protected wildlife, a misdemeanor under state law, and paid a $750 fine.
The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act protects seals, sea lions, whales and porpoises. It provides for maximum civil penalties of $11,000, and maximum criminal penalties of a $100,000 fine and a year in jail.
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