Tourist Fined after TikTok Video Shows Him Slapping Monk Seal in Hawaii

The attorney of a man who went viral on social media earlier this year after slapping a Hawaiian monk seal has described his client's actions as "a brief lapse of judgment."

North Carolina attorney Blake Long said the man responsible has since paid state and federal fines for violating the Endangered Species Act. The incident took place on a beach in Oahu and attracted significant backlash after video of it surfaced on the video application TikTok.

The identity of the person in the footage was not released by the legal representative, who told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser he had advised his client to remain anonymous.

Long released a statement of apology to the local newspaper and said his client was sorry for his "immature, inexcusable actions." It remains unclear how much he was fined.

"While this is an incident that my client wishes to leave behind, he is also hopeful that his mistake will be used as an example of the types of conduct tourists must avoid," the statement read.

"The hope of my client and of the law enforcement officers involved in this matter is that my client's brief lapse of judgment serves as a lesson that ultimately aids in the protection of both the indigenous species of Hawaii and those who are fortunate enough to observe them personally. To all who were dismayed at my client's actions, please accept this apology."

Video of the animal harassment quickly gained traction on social media after being shared in February by an Instagram account with more than 270,000 followers called @hungryhungryhawaiian.

In the clip, since mirrored on other video websites, the man approaches the seal and slaps it on the lower back. The video is edited to have the song "Smack That" by Akon in the background.

As reported by MauiNow.com at the time, it was sourced back to TikTok by a user later identified as Eric Mustevoy, who denied being in the clip and claimed he recorded another person slapping the seal while visiting the Oahu beach about a month prior. Amid mounting backlash, Mustevoy apologized.

In a now-deleted Instagram post (via The Sacramento Bee), he wrote: "I wanted to make a public apology for the video I had posted of the Monk Seal when I was visiting Hawaii.

"It's hard for me to find the right words given I was completely in the wrong. First and foremost, I would like to make it known that it was not me in the video however, I should not have even for a split second, thought it was okay to post something so disrespectful," Mustevoy added in the update at the time.

An investigation into the footage was launched by the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, officials confirmed on Facebook.

"We encourage people to report violations immediately," chief Jason Redulla said in a statement at the time. "Far too often we learn about these cases after they've been posted to social media, which compounds the difficulty of gathering evidence and witness statements in real time."

Monk seals are an endangered species and it is illegal to disturb or harm them, officials have stressed. Harassment of a monk seal is a class C felony that is punishable by imprisonment and fines.

"Do not disturb sea turtles or monk seals sleeping on the beach," the official wildlife guidelines state in an online fact-sheet. "Never touch, chase, or feed. Animals are wild, unpredictable and protected."

Monk seal attack
The video footage of the monk seal harassment went virual on social media after being posted to TikTok and Instagram by various users. Screenshot/YouTube/@EricMust