Hawaii officials concerned about increasing harassment reports against marine life

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Kaimana Beach in Waikiki will remain blocked off while Kaiwi and her pup get comfortable.

Meanwhile, marine life officials are concerned about an increasing number of harassment reports against this endangered species.

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Viewer video sent in to KHON2 has officials concerned. The video was recently taken at Shark Pit Beach in Lahaina, Maui.

The person in the video is seen splashing the monk seal with water until it is forced back into the ocean.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it is now investigating the incident and it is far from a rare occurrence.

“We actually have seen an increase in reports of alleged disturbance in harassments compared to recent years since the pandemic,” said Adam Kurtz, wildlife management coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

Harassing a Hawaiian monk seal is illegal and comes with serious penalties.

“Your penalties could go up to more than $50,000 or it could be a simple summary settlement notice less than $1,000 or depending on how egregious that violation is,” said Martina Sagapolu of the law enforcement division of NOAA Fisheries.

The consequences do not stop there. Getting too close could have a big impact on the animal.

“It could cause reproductive issues. It can use up precious energy that they need to survive. It can disturb other important behaviors that they have, like resting or caring for their young or feeding,” Kurtz said.

All officials ask is to keep a safe distance. They say there is an easy way to figure out what that is.

Bystanders can make sure they are far enough away by using what NOAA calls “the thumb rule,” if there are no barriers around.

There are also rules when beachgoers go in the water and encounter marine life.

“For dolphins and small whales, it’s 50 yards. For humpback whales, it’s 100 yards and for monk seals, we usually say about 50 feet,” said Kurtz.

“We all want to enjoy the beaches, we all want to enjoy the waters. If you can do so, while respecting the animals that are there, it will be a win win for all,” Sagapolu said.

To report a violation to NOAA call their hotline at (800)-853-1964 or click here.

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