Swimmer, 60, injured by Hawaiian monk seal with pups in Waikiki

HONOLULU — A swimmer on a Waikiki beach was injured this weekend after encountering an endangered Hawaiian monk seal with a young pup.

Hawaii Marine Animal Response, a nonprofit conservation organization that helps monitor protected species, said its employees saw Sunday morning a swimmer come into contact with the monk seal mother known as Rocky.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a statement that the victim was a 60-year-old elementary school teacher from California. The woman suffered lacerations to her face, arm and back, the agency said.

State officials said they would not recommend charges or fines for the woman and did not name her because she requested anonymity.

Hawaiian monk seal. Neomonachus schauinslandi. endangered species. Lehua Island. Niihau. Hawaii. United States of America
A Hawaiian monk seal.Andre Seale/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images file

The Hawaii Marine Animal Response said in a statement that the seal gave birth to a pup about two weeks ago on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, the same area where the swimmer was injured.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Hawaii Marine Animal Response have been watching the couple and have warned people to stay away.

It is against the law to touch, harass, injure or kill monk seals. People are told to stay at least 150 feet away from a mother seal and pup, although this recommendation is not a law.

The shoreline where the seals live is cordoned off and beachgoers are warned of the dangers of getting too close to the nursing mother.

“We ask people to follow the directions and directions from HMAR, NOAA, Ocean Safety or other authorized parties on the beach,” the organization said in the statement. They said the swimmer was transported by ambulance.

A message left with the Honolulu Emergency Services Department was not immediately returned.

NOAA Fisheries are still investigating the incident. However, in a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the agency said: “Mother seals can move incredibly quickly in the water and we urge people to use alternative areas for water activities when mothers with pups are in the area.” .”

They estimate these seals will remain in the area for about a month and said people must heed signs and instructions from officials.

It is a crime to disturb monk seals that exist less than 1,600 left in the wilderness. The animals are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and decimated under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“People are once again reminded that Hawaiian monk seal mothers are protective with pups, can be dangerous and have inflicted serious wounds on nearby swimmers,” said Hawaii Marine Animal Response. “We continue to warn people not to engage in any aquatic activity when a mother monk seal with a pup is in the area and to stay at least 50 meters away from mother seals with their pups.”

A witness said video of the encounter with The Honolulu Star Advertiser. Footage shows the mother seal in the water with her pup as the swimmer approaches. The seal then comes in contact with the swimmer and pulls the person underwater.

The person was able to make it back to shore with the help of passers-by.

“A mother seal protects her pup, and there happens to be a human who is in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Markus Faigle, who captured the incident on video, told Star Advertiser. “So it’s not a seal attacking a human; for me that is the completely wrong way of looking at things.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/swimmer-60-injured-hawaiian-monk-seal-pup-waikiki-rcna40006 Swimmer, 60, injured by Hawaiian monk seal with pups in Waikiki

Fry Electronics Team

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