A woman swimming on a beach in Waikiki was injured this weekend after encountering an endangered Hawaiian monk seal with a young pup.
A witness shared a video of the meeting with Hawaii News Now. The images show the mother seal with her pup in the water as the swimmer approaches. The seal then comes into contact with the swimmer and pulls her under the water.
With the help of bystanders, the swimmer was able to reach the beach again.
“It’s a mother seal protecting its pup, and there just happens to be a human who is in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Markus Faigle, who videotaped the incident, told the station. “So it’s not a seal attacking a human; that’s the totally wrong way for me to look at this.”
Before the incident, Faigle told the station that the monk seal’s mother lost her pup around the corner from the natatorium and started barking.
“I can’t imitate it, but it actually freezes your soul because she’s looking for the puppy and then she found the puppy and then she went back to the part where she normally is, the Diamond Head side of the beach,” said Faigle.
Hawaii Marine Animal Response, a nonprofit conservation organization that helps monitor protected species, said their employees witnessed a swimmer come into contact with the mother monk seal known as Rocky Sunday morning.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a statement that the victim is a 60-year-old elementary school teacher from California. The woman suffered cuts 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 asked for anonymity. They said the woman was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The woman’s husband told officials at the Department of Land and Natural Resources that when the seals arrived, she could not hear people yelling at swimmers to get out of the area because her head was in the water, Hawaii News Now reported.
“I think she’ll die by the time I get to the beach. When I got there, three rescuers, including one in a stamped canoe, brought her to shore while the seals swam back to them.” her husband said.
The Hawaii Marine Animal Response said in a statement that the seal gave birth to a pup about two weeks ago at 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 monitoring the pair and warning 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 that recommendation isn’t law.
“While monk seals are not typically aggressive, mothers can protect their pups, be aggressive and inflict serious injuries,” the organization said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
The shoreline where the seals live has been cordoned off and beachgoers are warned of the dangers of getting too close to the nursing mother.
“We ask people to follow the guidelines and instructions of 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 was not returned immediately.
NOAA Fisheries is still assessing the incident. But in a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the agency said: “Mother seals can move incredibly quickly in water, and we urge people to use alternative areas for water activities when mothers with pups are in the area.” .”
They expect these seals to remain in the area for about a month and said people should observe officials’ signs and guidance.
It is a crime to disturb monk seals, of which fewer than 1,600 live in the wild. The animals are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and exhausted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.