New Jersey Tuna Fisherman Arrested For Killing Whale With World War II Russian Rifle

B9316360548Z.1_20150223160837_000_GGIA1RELN.1-0There 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.

17 thoughts on “New Jersey Tuna Fisherman Arrested For Killing Whale With World War II Russian Rifle”

  1. I need to qualify my remark above…I bear no grudge toward hunters who eat what they hunt…it is those that don’t that irritate.

  2. Anyone who picks up a rifle or pistol out of vengeance for some natural slight is unfit to be let run around free. Killing is not a game. Kill when you must, as in war, better men than me have had to face this and act upon it…but in this instance, it is nothing but inhumanity. I regret that there are those among is who don’t get it.

  3. This story would make a whale of a movie, although some people might not consider it a high caliber movie.

    More seriously, this schmuck should have to pay restitution in a way that benefits preservation of marine animal life. Paying a criminal fine that does not benefit preservation of marine animal life is not my idea of good sentence. Nor is jail time. Community service will be better.

  4. I love all wildlife, but how much did this cost us? The environment folks have created this vengeance. People lose property or aren’t allowed to build because of this overreach.

    In CA a large building project was stopped because they found snail darters. Snail darters are protected because their numbers are decreasing (supposedly). People all over the state started calling offering all the snail darters they wanted. A protected species not endangered at all.

    Then the spotted owl in Oregon. They shut down logging and made people leave their homes because this little guy only grew in this area. This was another lie. Spotted owls were making nests behind neon signs, probably for warmth. The government didn’t change their decision.

    If a river changes its route and comes on to your property, the government considers that Federal land. Your cattle aren’t allowed within miles of this, on your land.

    I know, we all care about our environment, but people’s living should be respected. Landowners should be paid for the land they own, but cannot use.

  5. Just an FYI, Mosin-Nagant rifles are very common in the US, even if they are not well known amongst those who are not gun owners.

    As a rifle, they are very inexpensive, accurate, easy to use, easy to maintain, ammo is cheap, and the rifle is very durable.

  6. Actually, the Mosin-Nagant is fairly common in the US. Back when I followed such things, it was reasonably priced, the ammunition was relatively cheap, it is generally fairly accurate, and, being Russian-made, it can stand up to adverse conditions quite well. Just the thing for the gunrack in the back window of the pickup or the tuna boat. It’s still on the recommended list for a lot of the survivalist/prepper crowd, but I think that prices have gone up.

  7. Slight typo? In para 3 you write they “searched for the killer for four and a half years.”

    Should that not be THREE and a half year? After all, it is 2015, not 2016.

    In any case, this just shows how difficult the investigators work is. In any of the popular TV procedurals (NCIS, CSI, etc) they would have tracked the bullet to the rifle, found the photo, and the crew all in 5 or 6 minutes. NOT the weeks, months, and years it can actually take.

    Good to see diligence rewarded.

  8. That’s just terrible. Poor whale.

    Historically, tuna fishermen would follow dolphin pods, which were hunting tuna. That kept the tuna grouped, and helped them find the school. Then the dolphins would get killed in the nets. We watched video of this in my marine biology class. I openly sobbed when a little dolphin calf, squealing, was hauled up by the net, and crushed in the enormous pulley system at the top, all while his pod called from below. At the time, the law allowed a certain number of dolphins to be killed PER school of tuna, and still be labeled “dolphin safe.” So the fishing boats would keep following the same pod, killing a few dolphins at a time, until they were wiped completely out. I did not eat tuna again until many years later I found pole-caught tuna.

    I wonder if there was a similar dynamic here. Did he follow a pilot whale pod, to find the tuna, and then those whales were in the way? Did he find the tuna first, and the whales arrived and tried to take his catch? That comment thanking the pilot whales for his tuna makes me suspect the former.

    No excuse for this. What an amazing effort that they put into finding this guy. I’m glad. The message needs to get out firmly that this is not allowed. I hope they post on his FB page a follow up that he made a pilot whale starve to death.

    In similar news, the world’s smallest dolphin is in imminent danger of extinction from the international use of illegal gill nets, which is the fishing equivalent to land mines. They catch everything, and waste non-target species.

  9. Good, give him a choice a $100,000 fine or a year in jail. The oceans should be protected more than any other part of the earth.

    In 1969, I went as a steward on one of two Canadian Coast Guard ‘Weather Ships’ out of Victoria, BC. It was a one time thing for me, seven weeks at sea, on ‘Weather Station Papa’, in the middle of the North Pacific, a thousand miles out. We steamed around a section of the Pacific where weather systems and currents converged, sending off balloons and taking samples from as far down as two miles. Even then there were bleach bottles, glass ball floats, and other garbage swirling around the area. Now there are abandoned drift nets some miles in length, that continue to ensnare fish and all sorts of other wonderful stuff.

    These two weather ships were the state of the art at the time, 400 feet long with massive computers, helicopter deck and hanger, balloon deck and hanger, all the stuff necessary to do the job. Now they are obsolete and moored in Alameda, SF Bay as satellites do the job. The world could start imposing heavier fines, refit the ships, and send them out to patrol and perhaps clean up a bit. This bum’s $100,000 could be a welcome contribution.

  10. Anyone who has dealt w/ Federal wildlife wardens know they have a missionary zeal. I know one in Wisconsin who folks dubbed Joe Friday. He would work poaching cases relentlessly. Although a bit over the top @ times, w/ all the lazy govt. employees, I always admired his hard work. There are indeed hard working, dedicated govt. workers. There are just too damn few.

  11. Reminds me of the cretins that say we must kill the wolves that might kill the the caribou that we would prefer to kill ourselves for fun.

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