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Tourists fined for touching endangered Hawaiian monk seal

July 13, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. authorities launched an investigation and fined Louisiana tourists honeymooning in Hawaii after a video on social media showed a woman touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

The couple were “deeply sorry,” a man identified as Stephen told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for a story Tuesday. “We love Hawaii and the culture. We didn’t mean to offend anyone.”

A video posted on TikTok and other social media showed a woman touching the seal at a Kauai beach in June. The video showed her running away after the resting seal raised its head and snapped at her.

The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to reach the couple Tuesday.

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

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It’s a felony to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal under state and federal laws, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

The newspaper reported that authorities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contacted the couple over the weekend and assessed an undisclosed fine.

Dominic Andrews, a spokesman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, said an investigation is underway and declined to comment further.