Fish farmer sentenced for gunning down birds


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) – The owner of a Sunderland trout hatchery was sentenced Tuesday to six months in a halfway house and another five years of probation for killing more than 200 herons and ospreys and a bald eagle.

A day before his 60th birthday, Michael Zak was also ordered to pay a $65,000 fine for shooting the birds that were feeding at his fish pools. Zak pleaded guilty in April to killing the herons and ospreys, but said he thought the eagle he shot was actually a hawk.

U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor convicted him of shooting the eagle.

Ponsor also sentenced Zak’s employee, Timothy Lloyd, to pay a $15,000 fine and serve two years of probation for his role in killing the birds.

“I feel sorry about the fact that I had to kill the birds,” Zak told Ponsor, explaining that the birds were literally eating away at his $36,000-a-year fish farm business. “That’s farming. It’s a very hard way of life.”

Citing Zak’s $1.2 million net worth, Ponsor scolded the owner of the Mohawk Trout Hatchery for not spending the money to cover the trout pools with nets that could have protected the fish from the birds.

“He’s killed hundreds of birds rather than do something that is not all that hard and not all that expensive,” Ponsor said.

AP-ES-07-24-07 1751EDT