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A tourist in Hawaii was fined $1,500 after he touched a seal and harassed a sea turtle and posted videos of the incidents on Instagram, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.
The Alabama man was on a trip to Kauai last year when he posted the videos to his Instagram page. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement used his profile information on the social networking site to track down his home address. The man has agreed to pay the full fine, which was levied to educate him about federal regulations protecting marine animals, according to NOAA.
The video posted on the man’s profile shows him walking up to a sleeping Hawaiian monk seal on Poipu Beach at night and then petting the animal with his hand. The seal is startled and scurries away from him. Then, the camera pans to an NOAA sign on the beach telling the public to stay away from wildlife. The caption to the video included the tag #monkseals.
Authorities also found video of the man aggressively chasing a sea turtle while browsing his Instagram page.
Hawaiian monk seals have a population of only about 1,400 in the wild and are a critically endangered species protected under federal law. All sea turtles are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
“Violations are usually the result of things like tourists wanting to get a good, close picture with a seal or a thrill-seeker trying to get a rush,” Adam Kurtz, NOAA fisheries wildlife management coordinator, said in a statement to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. “But it’s really frustrating when you see people harass these animals.”
NOAA’s distance guidelines for marine animals stipulate that beachgoers should leave a berth of 10 feet for sea turtles, 50 feet for monk seals, 50 yards for dolphins and small whales and 100 yards for humpback whales.
The incident has similar echoes to a bizarre situation that unfolded earlier this summer in Yellowstone National Park in which a tourist took a video of himself goading a large bison from inches away. That man was later arrested by park authorities for harassing the animal.
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