First Responders

Feds Convict Alaska Man Who Shot Harbor Seal on Naked Island

May 17, 2022Carl Prine
Alaska man

An Alaska man, Paul Gil, 41, shot and killed a federally protected harbor seal in the waters of Prince William Sound in October 2017. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

An Alaska man who shot, killed, and butchered a harbor seal and then lied to investigators about it has been sentenced in federal court.

On Friday, May 13, in Anchorage, US Magistrate Judge Kyle F. Reardon sentenced Paul Gil, 41, to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,500 fine for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Gil also is barred from seeking any hunting licenses, permits, tags, or harvest tickets from the state of Alaska while on federal probation.

“We are committed to protecting Alaska’s unique and highly vulnerable marine mammal species from illegal takes and exploitation,” said US Attorney S. Lane Tucker in a prepared statement released Monday. “The senseless killing of protected species, such as the harbor seal, impacts the viability of its population. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate and prosecute these cases so future generations can see and experience these animals in their natural habitat.”

harbor seal
Federal investigators say that on Oct. 10, 2017, an Alaska man, Paul Gil, 41, skinned a harbor seal he unlawfully killed on Naked Island several days earlier. US Department of Justice photos.

Neither Gil nor his defense attorney returned Coffee or Die Magazine messages seeking comment.

In a plea deal inked with federal prosecutors on April 13, 2022, Gil confessed to the crime.

Before the agreement, he risked a year behind bars; another year of supervised release when he exited prison; five years of probation; and a $100,000 fine.

Although he agreed in the plea deal to surrender his rights to the rifle he used to slay the seal, federal prosecutors later discovered he no longer owned it, which triggered the $1,500 fine as a replacement penalty.

harbor seal
Harbor seals, like this one mugging for the camera in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, often sun themselves on rocks near the water’s edge with head and flippers elevated in order to get warm from the sun’s rays. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo by Chad King.

Gil’s trouble with the law began in July of 2019, when a tipster rang the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Enforcement Hotline and reported that Gil shot and killed a seal in Prince William Sound in late 2017 and was photographed skinning the sea mammal at his residence.

NOAA law enforcement personnel interviewed the caller — identified only as “TM” in federal court documents — and the person, “MG,” who snapped the pictures of Gil with the seal.

MG told the NOAA officials Gil went hunting in early October of 2017 and returned with a dead seal, which Gil said he shot. MG said he told Gil only Alaska Natives were allowed to harvest the sea mammals.

“Gil responded by telling MG he would shoot MG if MG told anyone and that they would tell people MG had shot the seal, as MG is Alaska Native,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

“Harbor seals are an important part of Alaska’s marine ecosystem,” said Jon Kurland, Alaska regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, in a prepared statement. “Shooting seals is prohibited by federal law unless specifically authorized or exempted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, such as the exemption for non-wasteful subsistence use by Alaska Natives.”

harbor seals
Harbor seals often rest on rocks and beaches along the coast and on floating ice in glacial fjords with their head and rear flippers elevated in a “banana-like” position. These seals were photographed in Chatham, Massachusetts. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries photo.

Metadata on the digital photos of the seal skinning fixed the date they were taken as Oct. 10, 2017. Armed with search warrants, NOAA officials uncovered other photos shot earlier that month of Gil on Naked Island in Prince William Sound with a rifle that was stenciled “Gil Trust, Anchorage, AK.”

Officials also were able to track Gil’s cell phone near Naked Island from Oct. 4 to 8, 2017, and when it pinged off a tower back in Anchorage on Oct. 9, 2017.

On June 9, 2021, NOAA officials interviewed Gil, who told them he went hunting with two others in Prince William Sound in October of 2017, but he only shot deer. When investigators spoke to the other two members of the hunting party, however, they confirmed Gil had killed a seal and taken it home.

Gil has five prior criminal misdemeanor convictions spanning 18 years, including violating a domestic violence protective order, firearms misconduct, and driving under the influence, according to federal court records.

Read Next: Prison for Man Who Illegally Trapped Thousands of Turtles for Chinese Pet Trade 

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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