Man arrested in connection to monk seal attack on Kauai

Shylo Akuna

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources confirms an arrest has been made in the attack of a Hawaiian monk seal on Kauai, the incident caught on video.

Officials identified him as Shyloh Akuna, 19, of Eleele. He was arrested Thursday afternoon by DNLR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) and NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) special agents.

Kauai police responded at approximately 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Salt Pond Beach Park. The man was gone by the time officers arrived.

Authorities say the video, supported by eyewitness accounts, led to Akuna’s arrest.

“Without it, we wouldn’t have identity of this man, very crucial,” said DOCARE chief Thomas Friel. “I think the main factor was the video, and several people identified the suspect.”

“I think the message is very clear. Harming monk seals is not okay and we’re not going to tolerate it, and the public won’t tolerate it,” said DLNR chair Suzanne Case. “We very much appreciate everyone’s help bringing this matter to the arrest stage.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says she is currently pregnant with her seventh known pup, but is okay.

Officials identified her as RK-30, known as Kauai’s most “easily identifiable” monk seal because of her battle wounds: shark bites, and boat propeller and neck entanglement scars. She’s believed to be around 17 years old.

Monk seals are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Akuna is being held at the Kauai Police Department on suspicion of “taking a monk seal,” which also applies to harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing or collecting an endangered or threatened aquatic species or terrestrial wildlife.

If convicted of this Class C felony, Akuna could face anywhere from one to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $50,000.

“Today’s arrest is a result of the partnership between federal, state, and county authorities working together with the community. We are grateful to all those who stepped forward to provide information and we applaud efforts by NOAA, state DLNR, state sheriffs, and KPD for their diligence and teamwork,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

To report information on this and other ocean-related violations, contact NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

To report a marine mammal in danger on Kauai, call the Kauai Marine Mammal Response Hotline at 651-7668.

Click here for more information on Hawaiian monk seals.

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