News Release No. 2007-5
June 1, 2007
Killer Whale Harassment Case Ends With Bail Forfeiture
Corey A. Mendoza, age 51, of Stanwood, Washington, forfeited bail for operating a 36-foot motor yacht in the path of the southern resident killer whales. Prosecutors charged Mendoza with violation of the state wildlife laws which make it unlawful to maliciously harass an endangered species, a gross misdemeanor.
On August, 27, 2006, Mendoza was the master of the Nauti-Lust as it drove at a high rate of speed directly into the path of L-pod and within 10 yards of the whales. Mendoza then chased the whales, overtook them, and leap-frogged around into the path of the whales, again and again, repeatedly obstructing their path for about 30 minutes.
Jeff Hogan and Jodi Smith, volunteers from Soundwatch, attempted to slow Mendoza and notify him of the "Be Whale Wise" guidelines for whale watching as he approached the whales at a high rate of speed. But, instead of driving cautiously, Mendoza kept his boat on plane, putting out a wake that nearly swamped the smaller Soundwatch inflatable.
Officers Todd Vandivert and Ryan Valentine of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department were patrolling the area and were promptly notified of the incident. Mendoza was cited at the scene for failure to properly display a valid vessel registration, and the case was referred to the San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney and the National Marine Fisheries Service for violation of state and federal laws protecting the southern resident killer whale from harassment.
Prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord said, "We were prepared to present a case that the conduct of Mr. Mendoza altered the behavior of the whales, which would have required expert testimony."
Gaylord said this case presented an arrogant and flagrant violation of the Be Whale Wise guidelines. This presents an example of why local, state and federal law need to be more specific about operating vessels around endangered species. Gaylord said, "If we are going to keep vessels a safe distance from the killer whale, we need clear rules that are widely known by all vessel operators and easily enforced by all agencies on the water."