Jon Apothaker thought that selling T-shirts screen-printed with slogans like “Save the Sea Bass” would get him off the hook for allegedly catching, reeling in, posing with and eventually killing a protected and endangered giant black sea bass.
The video showed Apothaker taking his time to pose with the fish, even after a crowd of upset beach-goers told him that he was posing with an endangered species. Complaints from upset viewers led the California Department of Fish and Game to reconsider their initial stance that Apothaker had simply made a mistake. The case was eventually passed on the DA, who finally decided to prosecute Thursday afternoon.
Since the catch and the public outcry, Apothaker and his attorney have been busy playing defense by running Save the Giant Black Sea Bass.com, where you can buy his shirts and art, all emblazoned with an image of the fish, and slogans like, “do not touch. No gaff'n.” People can even donate to his defense fund, which was created pre-indictment.
Turns out he's going to need the money, because the DA has charged Apothaker with one misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking a black sea bass. Conviction carries a sentence ranging from probation to
six months in jail.
Apothaker, however, is no longer alone in this fishy tale. A man in a boat–John Brady of Huntington Beach–allegedly offered to help Apothaker by hooking the fish and running it to shore in exchange for half the catch. The fish was boated in and Apothaker met Brady at the shore to claim his prize. Brady is also being charged with a misdemeanor for his part in the demise of the creature.
Apothaker eventually returned the nearly lifeless fish to the water. But a week later, the dead giant black sea bass washed up
on the beach. It was estimated to be 20 to 25 years old and between 140 to 200 pounds. That's still a lot of fish tacos.