A commercial fisherman has been charged with using a rare World War I era rifle to shoot and kill a pilot whale that died after beaching itself in Monmouth County.
The fisherman, Daniel Archibald, 27, of Cape May, admitted to authorities that he used a Mosin-Nagant rifle to shoot at pilot whales swimming near the Capt. Bob commercial fishing boat in 2011, a statement from U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.
On Sept. 24, 2011, an 11-foot, 740-pound pilot whale beached itself in Allenhurst, Monmouth County, and died shortly thereafter. A necropsy uncovered a .30 caliber bullet lodged in the whale’s jaw. The bullet wound triggered an extensive infection that caused the whale to starve to death a month later.
Archibald, who was fishing for tuna on board the Capt. Bob, which is docked in Cape May, posted a Facebook photograph of a tuna head on a hook with the caption “thanks a lot pilot whales” about a month before the incident allegedly took place, authorities said.
Special agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement, eventually searched the Capt Bob and found the Mosin-Nagant, a World War II rifle that has not been manufactured in several decades. Forensic analysis, the statement from Fishman said, revealed that the bullet found in the whale was similar in all general rifling characteristics to test bullets fired from Archibald’s rifle. When interviewed by special agents, Archibald admitted that he had “spray[ed]” bullets at pilot whales in an effort to chase them away, according to the statement.
Special agents confirmed the Capt. Bob was fishing in New Jersey around the time the whale was shot by reviewing records from the boat’s vessel monitoring system, a GPS-based tracking system which commercial fishing boats must use under federal law.
Archibald 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 currently free on $10,000 unsecured bond, with travel restricted to the United States, except for fishing in international waters. He is required to surrender all firearms and firearms purchaser identification cards and is prohibited from using or possessing a firearm on land or sea, Fishman’s statement said.