US couple touched an endangered seal while on honeymoon in Hawaii – and got a hefty fine

<p>The couple posted a video of their surprise encounter on social media</p>

The couple posted a video of their surprise encounter on social media


Exploring the local flora and fauna is one of the joys of going abroad, but it doesn’t always go well.

It’s common knowledge that taking seashells or fragments of coral can lead to fines or even jail time in some countries, but not everyone knows that simply touching an animal can get you in a world of trouble.

A couple from the US state of Louisiana learned this the hard way, however, after they were slapped with a hefty fine for touching an endangered monk seal while on their honeymoon in Hawaii.

Authorities were alerted to the reckless act after a video posted to TikTok showed a woman touching the mammal at a Kauai beach in June.

In the clip, she can be seen posing with the animal before darting away after it suddenly raises its head and snaps at her.

The footage was later shared across other social media platforms, racking up more than 70,000 views on Instagram alone.

It’s a crime to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal under state and federal laws, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 (£36,000) fine.

There are just 1,100 of the animals left in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands, according to official estimates.

The husband in the disgraced couple, named only as Stephen, said he and his wife were both “deeply sorry,” for their actions.

He told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “We love Hawaii and the culture. We didn’t mean to offend anyone.”

Stephen explained that it was the first time they’d seen one of the seals and were unaware of the laws protecting the endangered species.

“We didn’t see no signs. We didn’t know anything,” he told the paper. “But I know that’s no excuse.”

He added that he and his wife had received death threats since the footage of their encounter went viral on social media, so asked that their full names not be given. Her TikTok account – where the video was originally posted – has since been set to private.

The seal wasn’t happy about being disturbed@lakynnichole/TikTok

Authorities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contacted the couple over the weekend and handed them an undisclosed fine, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Dominic Andrews, a spokesman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, said an investigation was underway and declined to comment further.

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