A former Santa Maria resident on Monday pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a protected elephant seal on a beach along California’s Central Coast, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Jordan Gerbich, 30, pleaded to a “single-count information charging him with taking a marine mammal” as part of a plea agreement, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Gerbich, who now lives in Utah, faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to a year in federal prison at his sentencing hearing on April 12, 2021.

He admitted to fatally shooting a northern elephant seal with a .45-caliber pistol in an area adjacent to Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine sanctuary near San Simeon, the release stated.

The elephant seal was found with a bullet hole to the head when its carcass was discovered on the beach the following day.

Northern elephant seals, which are found all along North America’s Pacific Coast, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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