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Hawaii Endangered Species YOU CAN GO TO JAIL FOR!

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Photo: Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash Creative Commons


These days tourists have been making the headlines by attempting to touch, ride, capture, harass and harm Hawaii’s endangered species.

Do this to wrong species in Hawaii and you will be slapped with a federal and state crime. That is what recently happened to a Louisianna couple was slapped with a $50,000 fine for touching a Hawaiian monk seal. Slap away!

Thankfully, more locals and travelers are speaking up so the criminals get deserved prosecution.

Hawaii endangered species you could go to jail for:

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle
(& Hawksbill Turtle)

The green sea turtle is an endangered species in Hawaii, largely due to human interaction. If you are lucky enough to see a sea turtle, stay 10 feet away from the turtle and no sudden moves.  Do not touch, ride, feed, encircle or trap turtles or marine mammals. Any stress to the turtle can endanger the species.

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Photo: Bruce Warrington, Unsplash Creative Commons

What are signs of turtle harassment?

If a sea turtle  “yawns”, it is irritated that you are invading its space. If it flips its flipper over its head, it is attempting to swat you away.

According to Robert Farrell, Conservation Resources Enforcement Chief with Department of Land and Natural Resource .

There are several turtles that are on the endangered species list, so any interaction that disturbs their natural behavior could potentially be detrimental to the survival of the species,”

What is the fine for touching sea turtles in Hawaii?

The fine for harassing or touching a sea turtle in Hawaii runs $1,000 to $10,500. The crime needs to be reported to the police for action to be taken.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

According to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Hawaiian monk seal is one of the world’s most endangered species. The species is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and has been on the decline for the last 60 years. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Hawaii State law.

hawaii endangered species monk seals
Photo: Heidi FIckinger, Plexels Creative Commons

What is the fine for touching and harassing a Hawaiian monk seal ?

Harassing a Hawaiian monk seal is a Class C felony under federal and state laws. The Louisiana couple was apprehended through a TikTok video that went viral. They claimed ignorance of the law; not a valid answer. I think a meter maid could tell you that if your one minute on a parking meter is up and you’re not there to feed it, you’re getting a fine.

As a traveler, it is your responsibility to do your research on your destinations.

It’s a crime to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal under state and federal laws, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $50,000 (£36,000) fine. There are just 1,100 of the animals left in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands, according to official estimates.


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Spinner Dolphins

Tourists love the idea of swimming with dolphins in Hawaii.  Although dolphins in Hawaii are not protected from tourists, at least, not by law travelers should always be respectful and responsible.  Dolphins are as fragile as the other mammals listed here and there have been dolphin deaths due to the capture and over-handling of these gentle creatures by cruel and selfish travelers.

Before taking a dolphin tour, research and book. Dolphin SMART businesses.  Dolphin SMART is a program developed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Fisheries Service, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and the Dolphin Ecology Project.

What if you see these species?

  • Stay 50 feet away from it.
  • You can photograph it with your camera’s zoom lens.
  • If you see anyone harassing them, speak up and report them to the phone numbers below.
  • Be  a good steward of the earth and travel respectfully and responsibly

Tip: Wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect the ocean.

How many endangered species are in Hawaii?

As of July 2016, there were 66 endangered animal species in Hawaii and 13 threatened species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)

What many do not suspect is that Hawaii has a long list of Marine Protected Species in the Hawaiian Islands. Here is a list of some of the notable species under protection.

  • Hawaiian Hoary Bat.
  • Hawaiian Hawk.
  • Crested Honeycreeper
  • Nene Goose (it is the State bird!!!)
  • Oahu Tree Snail
  • Humpback Whale

Is it okay to claim ignorance to breaking a law?

Uh, No. Claiming ignorance doesn’t keep you from being locked away in a Mexican jail cell for life if you break its rules. This is common sense. Breaking a law when visiting another destination is never okay, as a passport and vacation plane ticket is not permission to be an asshole.

It is your responsibility to research your destination and be responsible around wildlife.  It is never okay to touch or tamper with a wild animal for personal curiosity or selfish gain.  That is the consequence for breaking the law of a place and such is how consequences are dealt out when.  The harassment, disturbance and/or endangerment of any protected species should be taken seriously.

Although it is part of the United States, Hawaii has its own culture and laws. They must be abided by.

How to report crime or injury to endangered sea life in Hawaii?

If you can, take a photo or video of it. Get their information and report them to the numbers below. You must make a report for them to be prosecuted.

Violations against marine life/mammals:
NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline  1-800-853-1964
(24 hours/day, 7 days/week)
Violations against wildlife:
Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Enforcement Hotline 1- 808-643-
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