DLNR: photos of couple with loose dog close to monk seal illustrate ‘irresponsible behavior’
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources released photos today of photographs taken last week of a couple posing for pictures with a resting Hawaiian monk seal at Kaʻena Point State Park.
DLNR officials said the couple violated the department’s safe viewing guidelines and called the situation “a recipe for trouble,” especially with a pet dog present around a wild monk seal.
“Both of these circumstances create an unsafe situation that must be avoided and could have easily resulted in an unlawful ‘take’ situation under Federal and State laws,” according to a department news release.
In addition to not complying with NOAA’s safe viewing guidelines, the couple had a small dog, off-leash and on-the-loose around the seal. DLNR officials say this compounded the situation.
“Regrettably we did not have an officer in the area,” said DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla, “but we wanted to release the tipster’s photographs to illustrate this irresponsible behavior.”
The photos were received last Wednesday, via an anonymous tip to the DLNRTip app.
Several individuals have been charged and convicted on similar violations in recent years.
Redulla added, “Monk seal pupping on beaches like Kaimana in Waikīkī, illustrate the protection and care that DLNR, NOAA, and other partners institute to protect seals. They are critically endangered and have the highest levels of protections available. We hope that local residents and visitors alike will become educated about safe wildlife viewing guidelines and the rules and laws regarding human behavior around seals.”
There are currently around 1,500 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild, and all are protected under both the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act and by state law.
- Hawaiian monk seals, even pups, are large powerful animals and can bite if they feel threatened. Keep a safe distance away.
- Anyone who witnesses someone harassing or harming the seals may make a report to the DLNR Enforcement line at 643-DLNR (643-3567) or the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
- Follow the ‘rule of thumb’ to determine how much space to give monk seals,” according to NOAA officials, referring to the practice of making a “thumbs-up” gesture and extending your arm out straight in front of you, with your thumb parallel to the ground. If your thumb covers the entire seal, you are far enough away.