A US man’s social media videos has led him to being fined $2000.
In footage posted on Instagram with the hashtag #monkseals, the man walks up to a sleeping monk seal on Poipu Beach, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, at night and strokes it with his hand.
The startled seal quickly turns toward him, and he runs away.
The man panned his camera to a sign from the NOAA urging beachgoers to maintain a safe distance from wildlife.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Hawaii used the man’s social media accounts to track down his home address.
“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.
“But it’s really frustrating when you see people harass these animals.”
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The man was fined $2000 for touching a Hawaiian monk seal and harassing a sea turtle, then posting the videos on social media.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the Alabama resident, who was vacationing on Kauai last year, agreed to pay the fine, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Friday.
Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species. They are protected by US state and federal laws, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The man could have been injured because Hawaiian monk seals are wild animals that can act unpredictably, Mr Kurtz said.
The seal could have lunged at the man instead of simply turning toward him.
While investigating the man’s Instagram account, officials also found a video of him aggressively pursuing a sea turtle while snorkelling at Poipu.
All species of sea turtles in US waters are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, according to NOAA.