A $30,000 boat owned by Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late, famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, was confiscated by federal agents in Santa Barbara over allegations that the Marine Mammal Protection Act was violated in 2004 as killer whale attacks were being filmed.
Among the violations alleged against the 25-foot vessel, the Ika Tagane (Fijian for “Manfish”), Cousteau’s crew reportedly interrupted a hunting frenzy by driving too close to a gray whale carcass, even inadvertently backing over the dead calf while the killer whales were actively feeding.
Filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, the civil complaint for forfeiture describes the same set of facts that led Monterey Bay marine biologist Nancy Black to plead guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Though her own research vessel was not seized, Black, co-owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch, will be sentenced to probation, a fine and community service in August.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on its decision to file criminal charges against Black but no one in Cousteau’s crew.
“That’s not fair. For them that’s nothing,” said Black of the loss of Cousteau’s boat. “That’s what they should have done to me.
“If they thought I did something wrong, a civil fine would have been enough, instead of going through seven years of fighting a criminal case,” she said. “But the government insisted on that.”