KAENA POINT, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A shared passion over the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal may have sparked a confrontation with a monk seal volunteer that was caught on video. Zeeny Mian recorded a video on her smartphone Friday morning at Kaena Point. It shows a woman wearing a green jacket approaching Mian.
Mian can be heard saying, "Madam, what makes you think you can break the law, and you can do whatever you want? Next to..."
At that point, it appears that the woman hits the smartphone, sending it flying.
Mian claims she had gone to talk to the volunteer because she was not keeping the recommended distance away from four monk seals resting on the beach.
"She represents NOAA and the Monk Seal Foundation, who says 150 feet," said Mian. "So I told her please stay 150 (feet away), and if you don't I'm going to record you and report you."
The phone lands in some Naupaka bushes. It continues to record video for the next five minutes, until Mian is able to find it.
Mian called police and filed a report.
The Monk Seal Foundation confirms the woman is a volunteer. Dana Jones, Oahu Response Coordinator for the foundation, said in a statement, "It was a disturbing video, and it is under investigation."
The foundation also says Mian was incorrect in her accusation. According to NOAA, there actually is no law requiring people to stay away from the seals. The 150 foot buffer is just a guideline. The federal statute only says you cannot pursue an endangered marine mammal, feed them, or harass them. The recommended buffer zone for a humpback whale is 300 feet.
Mian and the volunteer certainly have a similar motivation. Mian runs a "HI Monk Seal" website to educate people about the mammals. She also sells her photographs of the seals, along with other products, and says half the profits go to outreach and education.
Mian also used to volunteer for the same foundation as the other woman, making them two animal lovers at odds over their shared passion.
"When I was screaming at her and telling her, 'I'm going to report you, I'm going to report you,' she turned around and said, 'Nobody's going to believe you,'" said Mian.
NOAA and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources have also been notified of the incident.