A dive master of a dive shop has been found guilty of killing and getting a protected spotted eagle ray by shooting it with a spear gun near Ice Cream Point off Saipan.
At a bench trial on Friday, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho said the CNMI government has proven beyond reasonable doubt that Hu Jie Fang is guilty of one count of ray protection. The offense carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment.
Fang will be sentenced on June 18, 2014.
Camacho found credible the testimonies of Division of Fish and Wildlife conservation inspector Erwin T. Flores and four other government witnesses.
Camacho said the witnesses testified that Fang shot a three-feet wide spotted eagle ray with a spear gun and took the ray on Jan. 15, 2014.
Assistant attorney general James McAllister prosecuted the case.
Assistant public defender, Matthew Meyer, counsel for the 27-year-old Fang, argued that the defendant did not know that it’s illegal to kill an eagle ray.
Meyer did not call any witness.
Flores stated in his report that Juan Diego Rebuenog, a boat captain of Pretty Tour Co., brought Fang and six other persons, including four tourists, to the San Jose reef channel last Jan. 15.
Flores said that, according to Rebuenog, everyone, except him and another co-worker, entered the water to go fishing. The four tourists were not carrying any spear gun.
After several hours, Fang surfaced from beneath the water and started calling for help.
Rebuenog saw Fang carrying a spotted eagle ray with a spear gun shot on its forehead.
Rebuenog and his co-worker helped Fang put the dead eagle ray in the boat.
The boat captain said upon reaching at Pretty Tour compound in Garapan, Fang took the dead eagle ray from the boat and put it in his vehicle.
One witness reportedly stated that while aboard the boat, Fang told the tourists not to take photos of the spotted eagle ray because it’s illegal to hunt them.