A fisherman accused of stabbing a sea lion with a steak knife after the animal stole his bait was charged Thursday with violating the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Hai Nguyen, 24, faces a misdemeanor count of illegally taking and attempting to kill a marine mammal, the U.S. attorney's office said. If convicted he faces up to one year in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Nguyen was arrested July 27 in Newport Beach. Police said he was fishing off a pier when the sea lion, a 6-foot female weighing about 150 pounds, apparently snatched the bait from his fishing pole.
Authorities said he stabbed the sea lion with the knife. The animal was severely wounded and was later euthanized.
Messages left with the Orange County fisherman were not immediately returned Thursday. He was expected to be arraigned sometime in September, authorities said.