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Endangered Hawaiian monk seal given stronger protection under new Hawaii law

endangered_Hawaiian_monk_seal_stronger_protection_lawA bill seeking tougher penalties for anyone caught intentionally harming the Hawaiian monk seal, or other endangered Hawaii species, became state law this week.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona signed Senate Bill 2441 into law, making the intentional harassing, harming or killing of a monk seal—or any endangered or threatened Hawaii species—a class C felony. The new Hawaii law extends punishment already imposed by violations of the federal Endangered Species Act, to include a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

“Despite the protections provided by the federal Endangered Species Act, these animals continue to be at risk,” said Aiona, in a media release. “Hawaii is home to more than 300 endangered species and we all have an enormous responsibility to help protect our unique wildlife.”

Though the new law covers all Hawaii animals protected by the Endangered Species Act, stronger protection of the endemic Hawaiian monk seal was the primary goal of lawmakers who drafted the bill.

endangered_Hawaiian_monk_seal_stronger_protection_lawLast year, a Kauai resident intentionally shot and killed a pregnant monk seal that was sunning on a beach where he wanted to go fishing. Though the maximum penalty under the Federal Endangered Species Act law specifies fines of up to $50,000 and a year in prison, the man—who pled guilty—was sentenced to 90 days in federal lock-up and a $25 fine.

An autopsy of an adult monk seal found dead in the offshore waters of Molokai by a fisherman last December also determined that the animal had been intentionally killed. The death is still under investigation.

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