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Tourists Fined $500 for Touching Hawaiian Monk Seals

mele exploring behind naupaka hawaiian monk seal
Hawaii Marine Animal Response
/
NOAA
RM90 exploring on the beach around naupaka plants.

HONOLULU — A woman from Louisiana who was honeymooning in Hawaiʻi has been fined $500 after a social media video showed her touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, U.S. authorities said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched an investigation last month and found the woman violated the Endangered Species Act, said Dominic Andrews, a spokesperson for the agency's Office of Law Enforcement.

A video posted on TikTok and other social media showed a woman touching the seal at a Kauaʻi beach in June. The video showed her running away after the seal snapped at her, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to reach the couple Thursday. The couple previously apologized and told the Star-Advertiser earlier this month that they love Hawaiʻi and didn't mean to offend anyone.

There are an estimated 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Under state and federal laws, it’s a felony to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal. Penalties can include up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Authorities warn people must remain at least 50 feet (15 meters) away from the animals or 150 feet (45 meters) away from pups with their mothers.

NOAA also fined another traveler $500 for touching a resting Hawaiian monk seal. It is unclear when that encountered occurred, but an Instagram account shows the visitor recently visited Oʻahu in May, the newspaper reported.

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