There is an amazing story about of New Jersey involving a dead pilot whale with a bullet wound on a beach, a World War II rifle, and some very determined federal investigators. It was a murder mystery that would eventually led investigators to a tuna fisherman Daniel Archibald who has been charged with shooting the whale from a fishing boat. While Archibald may have thought that the whale would simply sink in the middle of the ocean, it survived for a month with the bullet lodged in its jaw. The resulting would caused the whale to starve to death and the 740-pound whale later washed up on a beach in Allenhurst. The obvious gunshot wound triggered an investigation. The fact that they were able to build such a case is a great accomplishment for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents and other associated police departments.
The rifle itself was a novel factor in a criminal case. It was a Mosin-Nagant. As a military history nut, I was surprised to see the involvement of a Mosin-Nagant which was used by the Russians in World War II. While it is not a well-known weapon for many in the states, there were over 37 million of the different versions of this rifle produced since its inception in 1891.
The dead whale was found in September 2011. It is illegal in the U.S. to hunt, kill, capture or harass any marine mammal. As a result, federal agents searched for the killer for years.
The .30 caliber bullet was removed from the whale and became the first piece of evidence in the case. The federal agents narrowed the bullet to three possible sources, including a possible Russian-made weapon. The agents then searched for boats in the New Jersey fishing waters in August 2011 when they believed the whale was shot. One of the boats was the Capt Bob. Archibald was a crew member on the boat for five or six years. Agents then found a Facebook photograph posted by Archibald of a tuna head on a hook with the caption “thanks a lot pilot whales.” That zeroed in the investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives then traced records and found Archibald had purchased a Mosin-Nagant from a New Jersey Firearms dealer in 2011. They searched the Capt Bob and found a Mosin-Nagant, a standard-issue Russian infantry World War II rifle and later forensic analysis revealed that the bullet found in the whale was similar in all general rifling characteristics to test bullets fired from Archibald’s rifle.
According to agents, Archibald admitted that he had “spray[ed]” bullets at pilot whales in an effort to chase them away. That would constitute a confession to a crime under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 which makes it a crime to not only kill but to harass any marine mammal. This would constitute “level A” harassment under the statute:
Level A Harassment means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.
Level B Harassment means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering but which does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.
While his lawyer insists that there is more to this story, the Act does not permit much of a defense unless it was an unintentional discharge or the gun was fired by someone else.
He is charged with one count of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act in Newark federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III and was released on $10,000 unsecured bond. Archibald, 27, faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a statutory maximum fine of $100,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense. He is fittingly being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.