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YouTube video could bring charges in black sea bass incident at Newport Beach

February 1, 2010 |  5:16 pm

What initially appeared to be a case of a good Samaritan rescuing a huge black sea bass in Newport Beach could now result in criminal charges against the man for allegedly failing to help the animal, authorities said.

The controversy stems from a Jan. 3 incident during which a fisherman in a boat accidentally caught the fish, which is a protected species in California.

As the boat -- sea bass in tow -- pulled near shore, an unidentified man swam into the water and pulled the fish onto the sand. At the time, officials with the state Department of Fish and Game believed that the man had tried to rescue the floundering fish.

"They thought he made a reasonable effort to return the fish unharmed to the water," department spokesman Harry Morse said Monday.

But a video posted on YouTube shows the man apparently pulling the fish onto the sand as a throng of people surround the animal, shouting and cheering. 

After that video and others were posted on the Internet, Fish and Game officials reversed course and forwarded the case to the Orange County district attorney for possible prosecution.

"We're reviewing it to determine what, if any, crime occurred," said Farrah Emami, a district attorney's spokeswoman.

-- Robert J. Lopez