A marine biologist who runs popular whale-watching tours on California’s Monterey Bay has been indicted for violating federal laws that protect marine mammals.
Nancy Black’s attorneys said her interactions with the creatures were scientific research.
The marine scientist’s work has been featured on PBS, National Geographic and Animal Planet.
She was accused of feeding killer whales in 2005 during a research trip, and misleading investigators by editing video footage of her encounters with other whales during a whale watching trip, and then lying about it.
All of the alleged incidents occurred within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of 13 ocean sanctuaries established in 1992.
Whale-watching boats are supposed to stay at least 100 yards from the animals.
If she is found guilty of editing the video and then lying about it, Black could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a half million dollars in fines.
Each of the feeding charges carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.