Teenager to Pay $100 for Slapping an Endangered Seal

cant touch this monk seal photo
Photo: Jared Wong / CC

Hawaiian monk seals have plenty to worry about these days, what with a sea full of hungry sharks and a long history of being hunted by humans -- but now antics of rowdy teenagers has been added to that list. Last March, 19-year-old Cameron Cayaban saw one of the endangered seals and acted on a very bad idea: he ran up to the protected species and slapped it. The seal, undoubtedly confused by the offense, returned to the sea. Cameron, on the other hand, found himself in court.Little did the seal-slapper realize that the animal had a name, and more than a few powerful friends watching out for it. There were a group of volunteer seal observers that day on Kalaeloa's White Plains Beach, where the incident occurred, and they reported what young Cameron had done to Kermit (that's the seal) to local military police.

There's a rule against arriving too close to the islands' endangered monk seals, and the authorities don't take kindly to people breaking it -- particularly for the delivery of such a rude gesture.

A report from The Star-Advertiser describes Cameron's court appearance yesterday:

Federal magistrate judge Kevin S.C. Chang imposed a $50 fine and a $25 assessment and ordered Cayaban to pay a $25 administrative fee.

The government charged Cayaban with slapping a Hawaiian monk seal known as Kermit on March 12 while the animal was re-entering the ocean.

His lawyer, Pamela Cayaban said he had never seen a seal before and wanted to get close to it. After he touched the animal, he said it turned around, looked at him, then went into the water.

What Cameron apparently didn't realize is that Hawaiian monk seals are the most endangered seal species on the planet -- as few as 1,100 individuals are thought to exist today. Conservation officials have been working tirelessly to protect the animals from human threats, like hunting, entanglement in fishing nets, and disturbances from beachgoers. In fact, to raise awareness of the seals' plight, the Hawaiian government recently designated monk seals as the official State mammal.

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