Two men have been charged after they were allegedly seen harassing a Hawaiian monk seal.
Lucas Meister, 38, and Daniel Davison, 21, both from Lahaina, were charged with “taking of a monk seal prohibited.”
The seals are endangered and protected by federal and state laws.
The incident happened Friday night while a monk seal was resting in Lahaina near the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant.
According to police, witnesses saw the men approach the seal, which was sleeping on the shoreline, and tried to push the seal back into the water. One of the men allegedly kicked the seal.
KHON2 spoke with the manager there who told us she saw two men eventually in handcuffs.
Manager Robin Pallace said several onlookers were taking photos and video of the monk seal throughout the evening.
“Every time someone would shine a bright light on her, she’d put a fin up over her eyes like ‘leave me alone please,'” Pallace said. “We had an employee who was born and raised here, he went outside and reminded people please don’t go down the stairs. Don’t go near her. Try not to use the flashes. It’s okay to take pictures of her. She’s resting, but you know be cautious of her.”
But later on, Maui police showed up to the restaurant and Pallace said she watched as two men were eventually handcuffed and taken away.
Pallace said that same employee told her he believed the men may have gotten too close to the monk seal.
“They were all taken across the street. They were all questioned. The police officers looked at as much video and pictures as they could from all the tourists on the seawall,” Pallace said.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official confirmed the agency was notified about an incident involving a monk seal, but wasn’t able to provide details other than there is no indication the animal was injured.
We’re told the area is popular among tourists, and what happened may have been a misunderstanding.
“People don’t know and a lot of people were concerned that she was hurt or she was dying. A lot of people truly thought she was beached,” Pallace said.
Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and any person who knowingly violates it could be fined up to $50,000 and could also get up to a year of jail time if convicted.