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Biologist feeding killer whales: Woman fined $12,500 for feeding animals blubber

Biologist feeding killer whales: Woman fined $12,500 for feeding animals blubber
Biologist feeding killer whales: Woman fined $12,500 for feeding animals blubber
Wikimedia Commons, Nature Images

A biologist feeding killer whales has been fined $12,500 and placed on probation for a minimum of three years after getting caught supplying killer whales with blubber in order to draw them closer for filming and research while at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Prominent expert Nancy Black has had her work shown on well-known sites like Animal Planet, National Geographic, and PBS, though this recent charge is said to have tarnished her image. The LA Times shares the details on this woman’s illegal act this Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014.

The biologist feeding killer whales officially pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and will also be serving a total of 300 hours of community service as part of the deal. Federal prosecutors alleged that the woman was using large chunks of gray whale blubber in order to draw the orcas nearer to her research vessel so that she could film them for a documentary back in 2005.

Black was previously facing a potential fine of $100,000 and a full year behind bars if convicted with a maximum charge. However, she instead took a plea agreement where she openly acknowledged that she had offered food to the killer whales illegally in her studies, “specifically chunks of gray whale blubber.”

“Investigators built their case on footage shot by famed oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau, whose crew also attempted to lure the orcas during the feeding in April 2004. Federal prosecutors forced him to forfeit his vessel, the Manfish, alleging that, like Black, his crew also threaded gray whale blubber on ropes to draw the orcas closer.”

According to the criminal complaint that was filed against the biologist feeding killer whales, state prosecutors claimed that the orcas were attempting to stay underwater and lead the gray whale carcass from the Manfish more than once during the two hour filming period, but the research team kept directing them so they could capture their footage.

While her fellow male researcher needed to give up his vessel, Black did not need to. The woman (who also serves as a co-owner of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch) revealed to a local news source that this criminal case set against her, let alone the $12,500 fine and community service hours, has been no less than the “worst nightmare [she] could ever imagine.” She added:

"I look forward to returning to my passion of studying marine mammals without the distractions that I have had during this case."

The primary reason, concludes the report, that feeding killer whales is outlawed is because it weakens their natural suspicion of humans, which can pose a threat for both orcas and people.