Three Otago men, including a junior All Black, have pleaded guilty to shooting a fur seal on the Otago Peninsula.
Hamish Wilson, Matthew O'Connell and Junior All Black Andrew Hore pleaded guilty in the Dunedin District Court on Wednesday and were fined $2,500. Hore was also granted diversion on a firearms charge.
DOC staff searched the shore and sea around the Otago Peninsula after tourists at a nearby penguin colony caught on camera several men shooting at seals from their boat.
One dead seal was found and an autopsy revealed it died of wounds from shotgun pellets.
"All three of you are farmers from Central Otago, you are all involved in rugby at a high level, and in your case Mr Hore, at the highest level," said Judge Peter Rollo.
"Those qualities it would seem that you each possess makes this offending the more difficult to explain in any charitable manner."
Wilson and O'Connell's lawyer Anne Stevens told the court that the three men are ashamed about their actions.
"It arose, I can confidently submit, because they were in that group situation," said Stevens.
DOC considers the case a landmark lawsuit. It is the first time in New Zealand that a prosecution has been able to be brought for deliberate killing of a marine mammal.
Hore, O'Connell and Wilson also have to pay $1,000 to the Department of Conservation so they can be discharged without conviction at their next court appearance.
But it is not over for Hore yet. He now has to explain his actions to the New Zealand Rugby Union who will then decide if any penalty will be imposed under the players collective.