HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – NOAA said it is investigating two viral video clips of people who appear to touch monk seals in Hawaii.
Both clips were posted on social media and each viewed and shared thousands of times.
In a video originally posted on TikTok, a woman visiting Kauai is seen running away after the seal barks at her after getting too close to the animal.
In another video, a man appears to be ignoring the seal’s warnings and tries a second time to stroke it.
The two clips caused anger among community members, and some urged the state to do more to educate visitors about how to respect Hawaii’s natural wonders and wildlife.
Officials said Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, and it is illegal to touch, harass, injure or kill the animals.
NOAA said it was vital to protect these semi-aquatic mammals as only about 1,400 monk seals live today.
Kauai prosecutor Justin Kollar promised to prosecute in full – which could result in hefty fines and up to five years in prison.
For the protection of the animal and your safety, officials ask the public to stay 15 meters from seals and 50 meters from seal mothers with pups.
NOAA encourages anyone with information to contact the NOAA OLE hotline at (800) 853-1964.
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