HONOLULU (KHON2) — A Hawaiian monk seal affectionately known as Rocky gave birth about two weeks ago to a pup on Saturday, July 9 at Kaimana Beach.
Marine animal experts are urging people to keep their distance from Rocky and her two-week-old pup as a swimmer was injured during a close encounter with the nursing seal at Kaimana Beach around 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 24.
The Hawaii Marine Animal Response team said in partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries have been monitoring the mom and pup.
Witnesses told KHON2 that the mother monk seal was barking in the water when she injured the woman.
People shouted at the swimmer to get out of the water, as the woman paddled to shore, the pup got closer to her, and Rocky’s instinct to protect her youngling kicked and apparently bit the woman.
Curt Otsuka said he goes to the beach every Sunday morning, he was one of the witnesses who watched the incident unfold.
Otsuka said, “She was wounded, she was on the ground and stuff, two guys came, grabbed her and carried her over.”
HMAR said the swimmer was taken by the emergency medical services team.
Otsuka and other witnesses said moments before the incident with the swimmer, Rocky was barking, trying to find her pup who was wandering in or near the natatorium.
Otsuka explained that swimmers got out of the water as Rocky and her pup returned to the area of Kaimana beach where they have been resting, but the woman stayed in the water.
After the encounter, Rocky and her pup swam back to shore and a video showed the swimmer paddling to a man in a canoe who came to her rescue.
HMAR said people should not be in the water when the mother monk seal and her pup are in the area and everyone should remain at least 150 feet away from them.
The organization said Hawaiian monk seal moms with pups are protective, can be dangerous and inflict serious injuries to swimmers.
Larry Akiyama who spends most of his days at the beach said he has noticed people continuing to cross the fenced area meant to keep the public away from the mom and pup.
Akiyama said, “They are not listening, they just go right through them we tell them not to go there and they still go right through them.”
Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species that are federally and state protected. Violations could result in a Class C felony and a maximum fine of $50,000.
San Diego visitor, Quincy Carlton said he made sure to keep his distance while taking a dip in the ocean.
Carlton said, “We were there sitting, kind of watching them and then she would roll over closer to the water and we get a little closer to shore just in case.”
San Diego visitor, Mia McCarthy said, “We stayed our distance and we just know that they are territorial so we wanted to give her some space with her baby.”
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HMAR said beachgoers should continue to keep their distance and be respectful of the mom seal and pup’s space for several more weeks until they eventually part ways.