Couple Fined, Facing Death Threats After TikTok of Wife Touching Endangered Hawaiian Seal Goes Viral
"We're animal lovers. We weren't trying to cause any harm or threaten or scare any animals," the husband, identified as Stephen, told a Hawaiian media outlet
A Hawaiian honeymoon moment caught on camera has turned into a regrettable experience for one Louisiana couple.
According to the Associated Press, a man identified as Stephen and his wife came across a Hawaiian monk seal on the beach in Kauai last month. Stephen filmed his wife touching the animal — an endangered species — and the creature's subsequent, startled reaction, posting the interaction to TikTok.
The pair, from Louisiana, received backlash on the video, causing them to set her TikTok account to private — and earning them an undisclosed fine from the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.
"We're deeply sorry," Stephen said this week during an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "We love Hawaii and the culture. We didn't mean to offend anyone. We respect the culture."
"We didn't see no signs. We didn't know anything, but I know that's no excuse," he continued, adding he and his wife have received death threats since posting the video. "We're animal lovers. We weren't trying to cause any harm or threaten or scare any animals."
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, touching or harassing a Hawaiian monk seal is a Class C felony; violators can face fines up to $50,000 and even prison time. The NOAA suggests the public stay at least 50 feet away from the animals, who are protected by the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser says there are just about 1,400 monk seals living in the Hawaiian islands.