Dive master Hu Jie Fang was slapped yesterday with a six-month prison term for killing a protected spotted eagle ray.
The sentence is similar to the one Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho imposed on the 28-year-old Fang in June last year.
At a bench trial on June 18, 2014, Fang was found guilty of killing a protected ray. He was slapped with the maximum sentence of six months in prison.
Fang appealed to the NMI Supreme Court. In its decision, the high court issued an opinion that a presentence investigation report shall be conducted upon a defendant’s request.
Because of the high court’s ruling, Fang had to be resentenced yesterday. He was given credit for four months of time already served.
After the hearing, Fang was remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Acting chief prosecutor Chester Hinds recommended the maximum sentence of six months imprisonment.
Assistant public defender Matthew Meyer recommended a sentence of four months in prison with credit for four months of time served.
Meyer said Fang already spent four months in prison—a lengthy sentence considering that no humans were hurt in this crime.
Meyer said after the resolution of this case, Fang’s plan is for his son and wife to go to Japan. He said Fang has no immigration status and that he shot the ray because he was trying to support his family.
Fang has no criminal history.
Camacho said a sentence of six months in prison is appropriate because Fang, as a dive instructor, intentionally killed a protected species and that his actions adversely affect the CNMI community.
Camacho said the Legislature finds that evidence suggests the eagle rays have been hunted to such an extent as to threaten their population levels and as to instill an unnatural fear of divers, thereby threatening one aspect of the Commonwealth’s revenues.
Camacho said the Legislature finds that spotted eagle rays specifically, and rays generally, are not traditional food fishes in the CNMI.
“Fishing specifically for such rays is not a tradition in the CNMI; the recent practice of doing so is detrimental to the welfare of the Commonwealth and should be prohibited…” Camacho said.
The judge said the Legislature has spoken clearly on this issue and this court is duty bound to follow that mandate.
According to court papers, sometime between December 2013 and January 2014, Fang was conducting a dive tour with some tourists at the popular dive spot—Eagle Ray City—off the western coast of Saipan when he shot and killed a 3-foot wide protected spotted eagle ray with a spear gun.