SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -- A former Santa Maria resident pled guilty on Monday to killing an elephant seal near San Simeon.
Jordan Gerbich, 30, is currently a resident of Utah but used to live in Santa Maria where he reportedly shot and killed the elephant seal on a beach.
Gerbich pled guilty over a videoconference.
Back in September of 2019, the body of the seal was found near a popular viewing area off of Highway 1. The seal was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. The seal also had its fins cut off and its chest cavity opened.
Gerbich admitted to his plea agreement that he drove up to the Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary near San Simeon in September 2019.
He brought with him a .45-calbier pistol and flashlight. He then used the gun to shoot and kill a northern elephant seal.
Northern elephant seals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The crime was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement with assistance from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Heather C. Gorman of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.
Elephant seals 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.
According to the press release, the United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer has scheduled the sentencing hearing on April 12, 2021.
Gerbich will face a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.