Two California men who posted photos of themselves on social media holding an endangered green sea turtle have been fined.
In October, the men posted a photo that showed them holding a Hawaiian green sea turtle on a Hawaii island beach.
The caption read: “Missing the time we risked a $20,000 fine to catch a sea turtle with our bare hands.”
The photo was reported to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the department’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) began an investigative case to determine if legal action was required.
The case was eventually transferred to the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, which tracked down the visitors.
The men admitted their guilt and each paid a $750 fine.
“It’s the disrespect that really upsets people the most. Here in Hawaii, we really respect our animals and respect or wildlife and when we see somebody blatantly disrespecting them and removing them from their natural habitat, that is what upsets everybody the most and what spurred action in this case,” said Irene Kelly, NOAA’s sea turtle recovery coordinator.
NOAA reminds everyone to keep a safe distance, three meters or about 10 feet, from federally protected animals.
Although the men were fined $750 for their actions, officials say an ESA violation can incur much more significant penalties depending on the severity of the violation.
Penalties may also be imposed for harassing or harming other marine species in Hawaii, such as the Hawaiian monk seal, humpback whale, or Hawaiian spinner dolphin, that are protected by the ESA, Marine Mammal Protection Act, or Hawaii state laws.
To report a suspected marine animal violation, call the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1974 or the DLNR DOCARE statewide hotline: 1-808-643-DLNR (3567).
To report marine animal emergencies (including injured or dead sea turtles) call NOAA’s new statewide reporting number at 1-888-256-9840.