Local fisherman admits to shooting sea lion

SAN DIEGO -- A commercial fisherman from San Diego pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting and injuring a sea lion of the coast of Southern California.  

Nathan Lee, captain of the ship, Two Captains, admitted in federal court that during a fishing trip on June 13, 2010, while anchored off San Clemente Island, he used a rifle to shoot and injure a sea lion, in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Witnesses told government investigators that they heard the animal yelp and observed blood in the water, prosecutors said.

Lee, 36, and 49-year-old Scott Hawkins, captain of the ship Jody H, pleaded guilty that they were fishing more than 100 miles into Mexican waters near Guadalupe Island when they caught about 800 pounds of albacore tuna, despite not having permits to fish there.

Lee had been previously warned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2008 that such fishing was unlawful, and both captains acknowledged that they had navigational equipment capable of advising them of their location, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Albacore tuna, a highly migratory species, travels the west coast of North America across the tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean. The commercial fishing of albacore is regulated by international treaties and conventions.

The two commercial fishermen were sentenced to three years probation and fined $500 each.