Swimmer injured by Hawaiian monk seal with baby in Waikiki

HONOLULU– A swimmer at 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 a swimmer come in contact with the monk seal mother known as Rocky on Sunday morning.

The Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources said in a statement that the victim was a 60-year-old elementary school teacher from California. Officials did not name her but said the woman received lacerations to her face, arm and back.

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 are monitoring the couple and warning people to stay away.

It is illegal to touch, harass, harm or kill monk seals. People are required to stay at least 150 feet (46 meters) away from a mother seal and her pup.

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

“We ask people to please follow the advice and instructions provided by HMAR, NOAA, Ocean Safety or other authorized parties on the beach,” the organization said in the statement. They said the swimmer was transported by EMS.

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

NOAA Fisheries is still investigating the incident. But in a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the agency said: “Mother seals can move incredibly fast in the water, and we urge people to consider using alternate areas for water activities when mothers with young are in the area”.

They expect these seals to remain in the area for about a month and said people should heed signs and advice from authorities.

It is a crime to disturb monk seals, of which there are less than 1,600 left in the wild. The animals are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“People are again being reminded that Hawaiian monk seal mothers with their young are protective, can be dangerous, and have inflicted serious injury on nearby swimmers,” Hawaii Marine Animal Response said. “We continue to warn people not to engage in water activities when a monk seal mother with pup is in the area and should stay at least 150 feet away from mother monk seals with pup.

A witness shared a video of the encounter with The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The sequence shows the mother seal in the water with her pup as the swimmer approaches. The seal then makes contact with the swimmer and drags the person underwater.

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

“It’s a mother seal protecting her pup, and there just happens to be a human in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Markus Faigle, who filmed the incident, told the Star-Advertiser. . “So it’s not a seal attacking a human; this is the totally wrong way for me to see it.

ABC News

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