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Investigations launched as videos circulate of people disturbing Hawaiian monk seals

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 9:51 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 4:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - NOAA said it is investigating two viral video clips of people appearing to disturb Hawaiian monk seals.

Both clips were posted on social media and have each been viewed and shared thousands of times.

In a video originally posted on TikTok, a woman visiting Kauai can be seen running away after a seal barks at her when she gets too close.

In another video, a man appears to try to pet a Hawaiian monk seal.

The two clips sparked anger among community members ― with some urging the state to do more to educate visitors on how to respect Hawaii’s natural wonders and wildlife.

Officials said Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is illegal to touch, harass, injure or kill the animals.

NOAA said it is crucial to protect these mammals as there are only about 1,400 monk seals alive today.

Kauai prosecutor Justin Kollar vowed to prosecute to the fullest extent — which could result in hefty fines and up to five years in prison.

Officials ask the public to stay 50 feet away from seals and 150 feet away from mother seals with pups.

NOAA asks anyone with information to contact the NOAA OLE hotline at (800) 853-1964.

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