Couple Apologizes After Wife Touches Monk Seal in Video As Officials Launch Investigation

A Louisiana couple have apologized after videos showing people touching endangered Hawaiian monk seals sparked outrage.

Under state and federal laws, it is illegal to touch, harass, injure or kill the seals, with violators facing up to five years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.

In one of the clips, originally posted to TikTok, a woman visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai can be seen touching a sleeping monk seal on a beach before running when the animal lunges at her.

In the second video, a man touches a seal lying on some rocks before the animal moves away to another spot.

Both of the clips circulated have been viewed tens of thousands of times each.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement is now investigating the two incidents shown in the videos, a spokesperson for NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office said.

A couple from Louisiana, who shot the video of the woman touching the seal on the island of Kauai, have apololgized for the incident.

"We're deeply sorry," the husband who has only been identified as Stephen said Monday in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "We love Hawaii and the culture. We didn't mean to offend anyone. We respect the ­culture."

The husband said that he and his wife Lakyn, who is shown in the video, have received death threats since the videos circulated online and want to keep their surnames confidential.

The couple, who were celebrating their honeymoon after getting married in Kapalua, Maui, said they had never seen a Hawaiian monk seal before and did not know about the laws protecting the animals.

"We didn't see no signs. We didn't know anything but I know that's no excuse," Stephen said. "We sincerely apologize if we offended any locals. The last thing we want to do is disrespect anyone or anybody's culture or lifestyle. That's something we're really, really sorry about."

He said: "We're animal lovers. We weren't trying to cause any harm or threaten or scare any animals. We're deeply sorry. We'll learn from this mistake."

It is estimated that there are only around 1,400 monks seals left living in the Hawaiian Islands. The animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Officials ask the public to stay 50 feet away from the seals, and 150 feet away from mother seals with pups.

While most tourists that visit the Hawaiian Islands act respectfully to the protected areas and wildlife, the videos have renewed calls for the state to do more to educate visitors, KIT4 reported.

Hawaii Tourism Authority Chief Brand Officer Kalani Ka'ana'ana told KIT4 in reference to the incident on Kaui: "We were outraged to see the behavior of this individual."

A Hawaiian monk seal
A Hawaiian monk seal is pictured resting on a beach. Videos of people trying to touch monk seals have sparked outrage. iStock