Almost no one in the US wants to EAT whale meat, but lots of us like to go out in a boat and try to spot these wonderful creatures. To see a huge eye rise up out of the water when a whale breaches and slaps its tail loudly on the ocean surface is one of the thrills of a lifetime.
Marine biologist Nancy Black used to lead such tours until she was arrested for feeding whales. The Economist reports that, One day Black was in her research boat with assistants when killer whales attacked a pod of grey whales and killed a calf. Its blubber floated to the surface, and the killer whales were about to feed on it. Seizing this opportunity to film their behavior, Black threaded ropes through some pieces of blubber, then lowered a camera underwater. For this, Ms Black might now face up to 20 years in prison and half a million dollars in fines, after a federal grand jury indicted her this month."
It turns out that Black violated a 1972 federal law called the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which was intended to save dolphins, seals and whales from being killed and harassed. The law also banned feeding these animals, on the theory that doing so might compromise their ability to forage naturally in future.
Federal laws are often poorly written and vague, so they are easy to break without realizing it, even by a professional marine researcher. This means that prosecutors tend to apply them haphazardly: One prosecutor might overlook something that another one has someone arrested for. Since prosecutors can be either political candidates or appointees, they are often trying to please their party bosses or the electorate, when it comes to the cases they choose to pursue.
As we know, the laws that are passed are not always in our best interest. The Economist quotes legal author Harvey Silverglate as asking if charges like these are reasonable when they run "counter to all human instinct and experience."
The news that's reported is not always the truth, especially when it comes to things like climate change (You can now get Whitley and Art Bell's famous book, that was made into a major motion picture, from the Whitley Strieber Collection (and it will come with a FREE autographed bookplate, especially designed by Whitley).