Has anyone ever served a jail sentence for harassing a whale?
July 10, 2007 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever done time in prison for harassing a whale?

In America, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 makes it illegal to harass whales. My understanding is that bringing your boat closer than 100 yards to a whale or engaging in any kind of conduct that disrupts the whale's behavior constitutes harassment.

My google research has uncovered a case where someone was fined $10,000 for violating this law. But it's possible to be sentenced to jail time under this law as well.

So . . . has anyone ever served time in a Federal prison for the crime of harassing whales?

(I understand that Canada has a similar law, so if you know of any such cases from Canada or other countries, feel free to mention those as well.)

Many thanks in advance.
posted by jason's_planet to Law & Government (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty certain a diver was prosecuted for wanking off a Dolphin in the North Sea a while back. I don't know whether he did time. I'm not very keen to keep looking this up at work though, so if you want more details someone else is going to have to do the legwork.
posted by biffa at 8:31 AM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: Wait! More came back to me, the diver was acquited in what apparently became known as the "Freddie the Dolphin" case. Apparently, dolphins use their cocks to shake hands.
posted by biffa at 8:38 AM on July 10, 2007

There was a story in the online edition of the Vancouver Sun yesterday that talked about this very subject. What you're looking for is about three paragraphs in.

In the Georgia Straight/Juan de Fuca Straight and San Juan Islands, no one has gone to prison for harassing whales. Over the past three years, perhaps four people have been fined for harassing whales - once by US authorities in the San Juan Islands, and three times by Canadian authorities.

On the Canadian side of the border, there are wildlife laws, enforced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, that prohibit boats from approaching within 100 meters of Killer Whale pods (if your motor is turned off and the whales approach you, there is no problem).

In every case, people have either violated this law, or have actually chased or harassed the whales. Fines range up to $6500.

The Southern Resident Pod, which ranges between Puget Sound and Quadra Island, is now listed as "endangered". The pod has declined 20% since 1999, with only 80 animals left.

Increased shipping, pollution, decreasing fertility and vanishing salmon stocks are to blame, so there is an initiative to align both American and Canadian laws.

If you want more information, you should contact:

Georgia Straight Alliance

Vancouver Aquarium
posted by KokuRyu at 8:57 AM on July 10, 2007

biffa, that is the exact reason I joined MetaFilter.

I am curious to know if you can get an operating license that makes this law inapplicable to you. Because I've been on many a whale watching boat where we were within FEET of 4-5 whales at a time that were logging.
posted by fusinski at 9:56 AM on July 10, 2007

Sea lions in Newport Beach, Calif., have damaged several pleasure craft over the years, and essentially nothing is being done about them because of potential entanglements with the Marine Mammal law.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:56 AM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: David Hayashi was sentanced to one year unsupervised probation for harassing a dolphin (which was later overturned by the 9th Circuit in US v Hayashi). That's the closest I could find.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:15 AM on July 10, 2007

biffa, that is the exact reason I joined MetaFilter.

To use your cock to shake hands? Clearly I have been attending the wrong meet-ups.
posted by astruc at 3:37 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Clearly I have been attending the wrong meet-ups.

Uh-huh. Suuuure. We believe you. Nice innocent act, there.

I think the Hayabashi case is about as close as anyone's gotten -- under U.S. law -- to serving a jail sentence.

(And he actually shot at a porpoise. The porpoise was stealing his catch, he grabbed a pistol, and got himself in a heap o' trouble.)

I asked this question because I had this image in my head of this large tatooed prisoner approaching a new guy and saying

"Hey, man. What are you in for?"

"I . . .uh . . . .(gulp), I harassed a whale."

Thanks for the answers and all of your contributions!
posted by jason's_planet at 6:13 PM on July 10, 2007

When will they start arresting dolphins for beating up the porpoises?

Thanks for asking the question. My partner has become infatuated with whales, and wants to scuba dive with some. I'm cautionary but game, barring potential legal troubles. I do wonder about 'harassing' issues. I can't help but look at the barnacles on the souther-right-whales down here (South Africa) and think they look like they'd appreciated a bit of back-scratching.
posted by Goofyy at 4:15 AM on July 18, 2007

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