In Brief

Biologist Gets Probation for Feeding Orcas

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The orca whale's large size and strength make it among the fastest marine mammals, able to reach speeds in excess of 30 knots (about 34 mph, or 56 kph). (Image credit: Orca image via Shutterstock)

Whatever you do, don't feed killer whales. A marine biologist pleaded guilty on Tuesday (April 23) to illegally feeding orcas in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Northern California. 

Nancy Black, a researcher and co-owner of a whale watching business, was charged with a misdemeanor for her actions. "Once facing felony charges, a potential 25-year prison sentence and the loss of her license and research vessel, Black's plea agreement represented a huge step back by the Justice Department," the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

Black admitted to deploying chunks of whale blubber in two incidents in 2004 and 2005 to lure orcas to her boat to film them. The action might have changed the feeding habits of the killer whales, according to government scientists.

Feeding marine mammals in the wild is a federal crime that comes with a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Black was facing a more serious sentence because of the multiple infractions and because she was accused of doctoring video of one of the incidents and lying about it, the Sentinel noted. 

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.