A 19-year-old Eleele man was charged today with harassing a pregnant Hawaiian monk seal on Kauai.
Shylo K. Akuna was charged with prohibited take of a monk seal, disorderly conduct and violation of county park rules. He was scheduled to be arraigned at Fifth Circuit Court at 1 p.m. today. The offense, take of a monk seal, is a Class C felony. Akuna faces penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
A video posted on social media showed a man repeatedly punching the 17-year-old monk seal identified as RK30 at Salt Pond Beach at about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. She is pregnant with her seventh pup.
Biologists checking on the monk seal observed her resting on the west side of the beach with no apparent injuries. RK30 has suffered previous injuries, including from a shark attack, entanglement in fishing line, and from a boat propeller.
Officers from the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement arrested Akuna near Eleele Thursday afternoon.
Conservation and Resources Enforcement Division Chief Thomas Friel has said the video and several eyewitnesses helped identify a suspect, resulting in Akuna’s arrest.
The video of the attack drew outrage from many around the country on social media.
“These are really wonderful creatures and so we want to treat this crime with the most serious intention. And we will pursue the highest level of penalty for anyone caught and convicted of a crime of harming Hawaiian monk seals,” said DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case at a news conference Thursday.