NEWPORT BEACH, California (AP) — A fisherman accused of stabbing a sea lion with a steak knife after the animal stole his bait has been arrested.
The sea lion, a six-foot female weighing about 150 pounds, was stabbed in the heart and was euthanized, said Dean Gomersall, animal care supervisor at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach.
“It’s a horrible thing,” Gomersall said. “My crew is extremely upset, and we’re just glad the person was caught.”
Hai Nguyen, 24, was fishing off a Newport pier about 12:30 p.m. Friday when the sea lion snatched the bait from his fishing pole.
“It was close enough so he could just reach out and stab it in the water,” said Sgt. Evan Sailor, a police spokesman. “A number of people witnessed it and called police.”
Nguyen was arrested without incident at the pier and held at Newport Beach Jail on $20,000 bail. He was expected to be arraigned next week on a charge of felony cruelty to animals, authorities said.
The case also was being investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office for possible federal charges under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Nguyen could face a $25,000 fine and up to a year in prison if convicted on the animal cruelty charge. A conviction on federal charges of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act could add $12,000 in civil penalties, criminal fines of up to $20,000 and additional jail time, authorities said.
Everyone knows you shouldn’t try to stab them. In Monterey Bay, responsible fishing boat skippers just scare them away with a shotgun, or a Glock 9.