WATCH: Swimmer injured after encounter with nursing monk seal mother in Waikiki

Jolanie Martinez talks to people who saw the Hawaiian mother monk seal and swimmer encounter at Kaimana Beach. (Source: HawaiiNewsNow)
Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 12:07 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 10:02 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A violent encounter with a nursing Hawaiian monk seal left a woman injured in Waikiki Sunday morning.

It was caught on camera around 8 a.m. at Kaimana Beach.

Before the incident, Faigle said the monk seal mom lost her pup around the corner at the natatorium and started barking.

“I can’t imitate it, but it basically freezes your soul because she’s looking for the pup and then she found the pup and then she went back to the part where she normally is, the Diamond Head side of the beach,” Faigle said.

Video shows the woman swimming about 20 to 25 feet offshore. Once her head pops out of the water, the mother monk seal charges at her.

“So I guess that’s mother’s instinct to protect her pup,” said witness Curt Otsuka of Moanalua. “Everybody was yelling careful, careful getaway.”

“You hear her screams, this poor woman was terrified,” said witness Markus Faigle of Honolulu.

Marine life officials said the woman had been previously warned of the dangers of being in the area.

Bystanders pulled her from the water. Witnesses said the woman appeared to have an injury to her upper arm. EMS crews responded and took her for further treatment.

“If it wasn’t for the kayak guy paddling over to save her she would have got like chomped,” said Otsuka.

“And she was just defending her child and this poor swimmer, my heart goes out to her, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Faigle. “But that couldn’t be in a worse place. And I filmed it because I had this really bad feeling.”

Signs and a rope perimeter have been up along that stretch of shoreline ever since monk seal mom ʻRockyʻ gave birth to a pup there in early July.

The Hawaii Marine Animal Response (HMAR) team has been keeping a watchful eye on the monk seal pair.

HMAR could not confirm whether the swimmer is a visitor or an Oahu resident. However, they said the person had been warned previously in the area and they say posted signs and barriers are sufficient enough that people should be aware.

“There’s signs on this beach here saying give seals space don’t go you know,” said Jody Newton who was visiting from Australia. “There’s enough for people to actually follow the rules and it’s very clear.”

“These people don’t listen to us,” said retired beach boy Larry Akiyama. “They don’t even listen to anybody.”

[Related report: Watch out, Waikiki: There’s a new monk seal pup in town]

In a statement, the HMAR team reminds people to respect posted warning signs and keep their distance on land and in the water.

“People are again reminded that Hawaiian monk seal moms with pups are protective, can be dangerous, and have inflicted serious wounds on nearby swimmers. We continue to warn people not to engage in in-water activities when a monk seal mother with a pup are in the area and to stay at least 150 feet from mother seals with pups,” HMAR said.

No official word yet on the condition of the swimmer. NOAA Fisheries is still gathering information on what happened.

If you see someone closely interacting with marine wildlife — such as touching or chasing them — in person or on social media, report it to officials.

If you see someone closely interacting with marine wildlife — such as touching or chasing them — in person or on social media, report it to officials.

For NOAA Fisheries to take action, it is important to provide the right information. Videos are much better for documenting an encounter. The most useful videos clearly show the behavior of both the people and the animals involved in the incident.

It can be very difficult to take appropriate action without knowing the identity of the people involved. Photos can help law enforcement identify people, vessels or vehicles.

To submit a report, you can call:

  • NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline: (888) 256-9840
  • NOAA Office of Law Enforcement: (800) 853-1964
  • DLNR DOCARE: (808) 643-DLNR (3567)

You can also send videos, photos and social media links to or download and submit a report through the DLNRTip app.

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