Man receives three months in prison for shooting and killing elephant seal

Jordan Gerbich


The 30-year-old former Santa Maria resident who shot and killed an elephant seal in San Simeon in 2019 received a sentence of three months in federal prison on Monday.

On the evening of Sept. 28, 2019, Jordan Gerbich left his Santa Maria home armed with a .45-caliber pistol and drove to the elephant seal viewing area adjacent to Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve. Using a flashlight to identify his target, Gerbich shot and killed an elephant seal on the beach.

The next day, the dead seal was found on the beach with a single bullet hole in its head. Federal prosecutors say Gerbich’s motive for killing the seal remains unclear. 

Last December, Gerbich pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally taking a marine mammal.

Gerbich, now a Utah resident, faced a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison, as well as a $100,000 fine. As part of a plea agreement, federal prosecutors were expected to recommend United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer sentence Gerbich to six months in prison and one year of supervised release.

On Monday, Fischer sentenced Gerbich to three months in prison, followed by a three months of home detention and one year of supervised release. Gerbich must also pay a $1,000 fine and complete 120 hours of community service. 

Northern elephant seals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They live up and down North America’s Pacific Coast and haul out on land in areas called rookeries. These rookeries are typically populated with elephant seals year-round, but populations vary throughout the year based on breeding and molting cycles.