LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Santa Maria man faces federal charges of fatally shooting a northern elephant seal on a beach near San Simeon.

Jordan Gerbich, 30, was charged Tuesday in an information with one count of taking a marine mammal.

In September of 2019, the corpse of a northern elephant seal was found on a beach near San Simeon, close to a popular viewing area along Highway 1. The animal had been shot in the head.

Gerbich was charged with fatally shooting the elephant seal on Sept. 28, 2019. The new federal charge follow an investigation by the NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The northern elephant seal is a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The species live up and down North America’s Pacific coast and are often seen on land in areas called rookeries, where populations of the elephant seal can vary depending on breeding and molting cycles, according to the Department of Justice officials in Los Angeles.

If convicted, Gerbich faces a statutory maximum sentence of a year in federal prison.

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