State and federal law enforcement officials are investigating a video of a man standing on top of the sperm whale carcass off of Oahu’s south shore.
The carcass, first spotted more than a week ago, was towed 15 miles into open ocean last Saturday from the rocks at Sand Island State Recreation Area. State officials had warned the public to stay away from the carcass and area due to the presence of sharks.
Over the past few days, southerly currents brought the carcass closer to land, and it is now resting on a reef off of Oahu’s south shore.
Both the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement have a copy of the video, as well as photos of the boat the man was riding on.
“If this incident or any others happened within state waters, state laws come into play,” said DOCARE chief Jason Redulla in a news release. “Additionally, since sperm whales are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, any violations could bring about federal charges as well…no matter whether they happen within state jurisdiction or further out to sea in U.S. waters. The video of this man standing on top of the carcass is a clear violation of the law and it is also extremely culturally disrespectful.”
Officials are also investigating other reported incidents of people touching the whale, and trying to remove some of its teeth.
DOCARE, NOAA, state Division of Aquatic Resources biologists and the University of Hawaii Mammal Stranding Team assessed the carcass today and decided it was not feasible to tow it due to unsafe sea conditions. The multi-agency team will try to tow it out again when calmer seas return.
Meanwhile, the public is reminded that touching the whale carcass or removing any of its remains is a violation of state and federal laws that could result in hefty fines and jail time.