A Warren man pleaded guilty on Monday to shooting a seal off the coast of Acadia National Park last fall, according to federal prosecutors.
Joseph A. Martin, 54, was sentenced to serve three days behind bars and was ordered by federal Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison to pay a $1,000 fine for shooting the animal, which is protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Martin was acting as captain of a fishing boat on Oct. 10, 2016 when multiple seals approached the vessel, federal officials said Monday in a news release. Martin was fishing off the coast of Acadia National Park, which stretches from Schoodic Point to Isle Au Haut, officials said.
“The defendant retrieved his rifle and began to shoot at the seals in the ocean. After the shooting, one seal could be seen floating in the water with a dark liquid surrounding its body,” officials wrote in the statement.
The seal was not recovered, and so officials do not know whether it died or what species it was, Andrew McCormack, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said Monday. He also said he was not sure where off Acadia the shooting occurred.
McCormack said that whether the seal died as result of the injuries is irrelevant to the charge, which is listed in court documents as “taking a federally protected marine mammal.” The term “taking,” he said, can mean killing, injuring or even harassing a protected species.
Martin’s lawyer, William Welte of Camden, declined to comment.
Criminal cases in Maine that stem from alleged attempts to harm or harass marine wildlife are rare but not unheard of.
In 2011, two Vinalhaven men were sentenced in federal court in Portland for shooting arrows at a harbor seal, migratory birds, gulls and black guillemots in Carvers Harbor.
Stacey Wadleigh, 41, and Lawrence Sanborn, 31, each pleaded guilty to two counts — the taking of a federally protected marine mammal and the taking of a federally protected migratory bird.
In that case, Sanborn was sentenced to serve three days in jail and Wadleigh was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service. They were each ordered to pay a $500 fine on each count.