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A fishermen shoots a sealion pup in the neck with a crossbow? I'm sure this wouldn't happen in the East, right?

Article is from NYT.
Rare Charges Filed in Wounding of Sea Lion

OS ANGELES, April 3 ? In a rare prosecution under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, two California men, a sport-fishing company and a charter boat it owns were charged today in the November 2002 shooting of a sea lion pup that became known as Arrow for the crossbow bolt found protruding from its neck.

The two, Matthew Lyon, 38, of Morro Bay, and Anthony Hill, 18, of San Diego, were charged with taking and attempting to kill a protected marine mammal. Also charged were the charter vessel Pacific Queen and the ship's owner, Cavanaugh Sportfishing Inc. of San Diego.

About 50 sea lions are found shot each year along the coast of California, but often there is little information for investigators to go on, said a spokeswoman for the Marine Mammal Center, a California group that rescues the animals.

"We don't often get the animal coming back with the evidence," said Roy Torres, a special agent for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In this case, however, the female sea lion pup was found about two days after being shot, and the arrow was removed and turned over to the investigators who used the serial number to track where the crossbow had been sold. A $1,500 reward and an appeal for help generated tips about men who had been bragging about shooting sea lions.

Mr. Torres said a majority of the shootings were a result of conflicts over fish between sea lions and commercial and sport fishermen.

He said that Mr. Lyon, who owns a bait supply business, had become upset because sea lions were damaging his bait tents in Morro Bay, on California's central coast. Mr. Lyon is accused of teaming with Mr. Hill, a crew member from the Pacific Queen, who had been fishing for seals with baited hooks "purely for cruel joy," Mr. Torres said.

The owner of the Pacific Queen was aware of what was happening, Mr. Torres said. The company has agreed to plead guilty and pay a fine of $3,100 each for two counts of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act, investigators said.

Although the company and boat had faced a maximum fine of $200,000 on each count, Assistant United States Attorney Joseph O. Johns said he hoped that prosecuting the cases would help serve as a deterrent. He said that in the past 14 years he was aware of only three prosecutions for shooting sea lions in the Central District of California .

Mr. Johns said he would seek jail time ? the law provides for up to a year ? for the two men charged. They also face fines of $100,000 on each count.

He described the shooting as particularly horrendous because the sea lion had been fished out of the water and shot at close range while dangling from a fishing rod.

Jennifer Witherspoon, a spokeswoman at the Marine Mammal Center, said that Arrow's release back into the wild on Feb. 7 and today's charges were gratifying.

As for Arrow, Ms. Witherspoon said: "She's out there. We gave her a second chance and we just have to hope for the best."

(This post edited by Pascal on 04/04/2003)
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