LOS ANGELES – A former resident of Santa Barbara County was sentenced today to three months in federal prison for fatally shooting a northern elephant seal on a beach near San Simeon.
Jordan Gerbich, 30, who at the time of the offense resided in Santa Maria and who now lives in Coalville, Utah, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer. Judge Fischer also ordered Gerbich to be placed on one year of supervised release following his release from prison, serve a three-month term of home detention, perform 120 hours of community service, and pay a $1,000 fine.
Gerbich pleaded guilty in December 2020 to one misdemeanor count of illegally taking a marine mammal.
On September 28, 2019, Gerbich drove to an elephant seal viewing area adjacent to the Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Gerbich brought a .45-caliber pistol and, aided with a flashlight, used the firearm to shoot and kill a northern elephant seal as the animal was resting on the beach in the Piedras Blancas rookery. The next day, the elephant seal was discovered on the beach with a bullet hole in its head.
“It remains unclear what motivated [Gerbich] to commit such an act; nevertheless, [Gerbich] knew it was wrong,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.
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.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement investigated this matter. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife provided substantial assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Heather C. Gorman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section prosecuted this case.