A commercial fisherman is on trial for
allegedly shooting and killing endangered Steller sea lions because
they were competing for the same fish he was trying to catch.
Stanley Roy Pedersen faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of shooting the federally protected sea lions, whose population off Alaska has plummeted by 90 percent in the last 40 years to about 16,000.
A deckhand testified that over a one-month period in 1999 he saw Pedersen shoot at sea lions nine or 10 times when the animals got too close to their boat or salmon nets.
“When sea lions showed up, he typically grabbed that shotgun and began shooting,” Bobby Croom said Tuesday, the first day of the trial. Croom also said he believed Pedersen killed a sea lion with his 12-gauge shotgun.
Pedersen is charged with shooting at Steller sea lions, protected under the Endangered Species Act, and two counts of illegally possessing a firearm because he is a convicted felon.
Animals With Hearty Appetites
The massive creatures have a voracious appetite and are a source of irritation for fishermen whose livelihoods can depend on catching the same fish that sea lions eat.
Pedersen’s lawyer said the case is a fabrication, describing the prosecution’s witnesses as a “pack of liars” who are trying to get back at him because they think he owes them money.
“There is no tangible evidence. There is no gun, no bullets... there have been no dead sea lions found,” Robin L. Koutchak said.
Bottini told the jury that in order to find Pedersen guilty they do not need to find that he killed sea lions. Under the law, it is illegal for any person to shoot at or in any way harass them, Bottini said.