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Biologist sentenced for feeding killer whales

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January 13, 2014 08:45 PM EST | AP

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A prominent California marine biologist has been sentenced after pleading guilty to violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act by feeding killer whales in the wild, a misdemeanor.

Nancy Black was sentenced Monday to three years of probation, $12,500 in fines and 300 hours of community service.

Black, who runs a popular whale watching tour on Monterey Bay, had pleaded guilty to one count of violating the federal act.

Federal prosecutors initially accused Black of feeding orcas in 2004 and 2005 and altering a videotape of her encounters with whales then lying about it.

Black's guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge resulted in federal prosecutors dropping all the other charges and not seeking jail time.

The marine biologist's work has appeared on PBS, National Geographic and Animal Planet. She also operates Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

She has also worked with federal agencies on the study of whales, including the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Black's attorney Larry Biegel said his client had collected a piece of gray whale blubber and tied it to rope in order to film the orcas eating for scientific research.