Man Gets Prison Time for Smuggling Whale Parts
A Massachusetts man named David Place was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for smuggling up to $400,000 worth of narwhal tusks and sperm whale teeth from the Ukraine.
Narwhals are listed as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are considered one of the mammals most threatened by climate change because they occupy a narrow range of Arctic habitat and probably can’t live anywhere else if their waters warm too much. They actually may be more impacted by climate change than polar bears. Sperm whales were listed in the United States as an endangered species in 1970. They were once widespread but centuries of commercial whaling caused severe losses. Since 1800 as many as 1,000,000 sperm whales may have been taken by whalers. They are also protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Place’s Ukrainian partner was charged previously and plead guilty. After serving a nine month prison term he was deported to his home country. Both men made thousands of dollars selling the whale parts. It has been alleged some of the sales were to a Massachusetts scrimshaw artist, Charles Manghis. Manghis was also convicted of smuggling whale teeth and elephant ivory. Place could have been sentenced to a maximum 20 years for the smuggling charges.
U.S. Attorney Pirrozolo said, “Unfortunately the United States is a significant marketplace for the exploitation of illegal wildlife. It is important that we take every step to eliminate the illegal commercial trade in these endangered and protected species. This is a fine example of multi-agency cooperation focused on the reduction and elimination of this illegal trafficking.” (Source: U.S. Department of Justice)
NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement all cooperated on the investigation. Local police were also involved.
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