Visitors fined $500 for viral monk seal harassment TikTok

  • Screen grab via TikTok

    A visitor to Kauai known only as Lakyn touched a Hawaiian monk seal recently, only to be chased away. The she and her husband will pay a fine assessed by authorities.

LIHU‘E — The beachgoer filmed touching a Hawaiian monk seal will pay a $500 fine for her actions.

Viral footage of the woman, identified as a visitor from Louisiana named Lakyn by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, sparked outrage earlier this month. Lakyn’s surname was withheld by the Star-Advertiser, which reported Lakyn and her husband, Stephen, received death threats in the wake of the incident.

“NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement found the subject to be in violation of the Endangered Species Act,” a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson told The Garden Island. “Pending the payment of this summary settlement, the investigation will be officially closed.”

Only 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals are alive today, according to NOAA. Harassment of the animal is a Class C felony in the state of Hawai‘i, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Lakyn and Stephen’s payment of the $500 fine does not preclude the couple from prosecution, according to Kaua‘i Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.

“The fact that they have been assessed this fine by NOAA does not mean that they cannot or will not be prosecuted under state or federal law,” he told The Garden Island on Wednesday, noting his office requires copies of the NOAA investigation, “before we can decide whether criminal charges on our end are appropriate.”

The couple’s video, and separate footage of a man touching a seal elsewhere in the state, prompted a strong reaction from state and federal officials.

“Our marine animals are both culturally important and ecologically unique to Hawai‘i. They should be treated with respect, always, both for the people of Hawai‘i and for general animal welfare,” Brian Neilson, administrator for the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, said at a July 16 press conference. “… The people of Hawai‘i live around these animals daily. They’re part of our lives, our culture and our identity. Harassing them for fun, or a photo op, or the post on social media is incredibly disrespectful.”

On July 11, Kollar retweeted Lakyn’s interaction with the seal. The seven-second video, shot on an unidentified Kaua‘i beach, shows her running away after the disturbed animal snaps its jaws.

“Any and all who harass our endangered species do so at their peril,” Kollar wrote. “This is a felony under Hawai‘i law punishable by fines and up to 5 years in prison. And we will enforce.”

DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla has recommended witnesses to wildlife harassment use the “DLNRTip” smartphone app; the DOCARE hotline at 643-DLNR; or the NOAA hotline at 888-256-9840 to make a report.

  1. RGLadder37 July 29, 2021 6:53 am Reply

    And the penalty is ….. ? $50,000 dollar fine.

    Well did you give them that ?

    1. DA July 29, 2021 3:46 pm Reply

      Did you read the first sentence? It’s even its own paragraph:

      “The beachgoer filmed touching a Hawaiian monk seal will pay a $500 fine for her actions.”

  2. Elizabeth Zkern July 29, 2021 7:12 am Reply

    So glad to see fines being imposed on those that do not abide by laws to protect these Monk seals.
    Is it worth it for a picture?

    1. CommonSenseish July 29, 2021 4:19 pm Reply

      Calm down. $500 is a slap on the back of the hand. I’ll choke on my coffee if the State / Feds actually do anything more.

      1. Don Long July 30, 2021 4:31 am Reply

        I support even greater fines, but the air carriers must at least have a video resented prior to arrival about this and other important ways to respect for the culture of Hawaii and the people who live here.

  3. Makani B. Howard July 29, 2021 8:51 am Reply

    What a fool! Why would you even want to touch a seal? Yeah, it’s similar to going up and touching a sleeping wild wolf. You wake it up and it will snap at you! Of course they are from the south…….enough said.

  4. Doug July 29, 2021 9:05 am Reply

    “Lakyn and Stephen’s payment of the $500 fine does not preclude the couple from prosecution, according to Kaua‘i Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.”
    Good, the voters are waiting for real justice, Mr. Kollar. $500 is peanuts to these people.

  5. andy July 29, 2021 9:11 am Reply

    Perhaps she should be fined an additional $1000 or so just for being a moron, and a couple of weeks of community service wouldn’t hurt.

    1. Rick P. July 30, 2021 7:43 am Reply

      You can’t fix stupid, but you can always levy a heavy fine on it!

  6. Palani July 29, 2021 11:03 am Reply

    Book her, Dan-O!
    Can’t people like this be banned from Hawaii?
    If they disrespect our wildlife this much, think how they treat everything else.

    1. Kauai July 29, 2021 5:21 pm Reply

      It would be nice if they had laws like this to protect hunting dogs in Hawaii..a monk seal is protected because “it’s part of hawaiian culture” what about the animals they use to provide food? Do they not deserve respect??

  7. Joe Public July 29, 2021 1:02 pm Reply

    Lets see if justice will actually be served, or will this be washed away again with time because it’s tourist.

    If it was residents, they would already be in jail.

    1. Tyler James July 29, 2021 7:44 pm Reply

      Both Person and videoer should be prosecuted and story advertised. Hopefully more severe than the last few residents who shot and killed seals a little while ago. I don’t remember if they were even fined a dollar.

  8. Will G July 29, 2021 8:38 pm Reply

    Prosecute these disrespectful people! A 500$ fine will not do!

  9. Mrs H July 31, 2021 4:51 am Reply

    Am I the only one wishing the seal would have bit her? Stupid snowflake thinking nature is something to mess with!

  10. Joann Wirth August 1, 2021 9:49 am Reply

    A few years ago, on the big islands at lovely Mona Kea Beach a small sea turtle (probably 2-3 feet across) is resting above the water line. A couple come by and the husband picks up the turtle and spins around in circles and pretends to fly it up and down like it is a toy. Several people watching come unglued. I was dumb struck at his actions. I think someone reported it to a lifeguard and pointed out the guilty party. I have always felt guilty that I didn’t run to the nearest guard yelling and pointing at the guy. The guard was at least 150-200 yards away. Clueless people need tasty home.

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