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State/In Brief

The Associated Press

Tourists fined for touching Hawaiian monk seal

HONOLULU — U.S. authorities launched an investigation and fined Louisiana tourists honeymooning in Hawaii after a video on social media showed a woman touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

The couple were “deeply sorry,” a man identified as Stephen told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for a story Tuesday. “We love Hawaii and the culture. We didn’t mean to offend anyone.”

A video posted on TikTok and other social media showed a woman touching the seal at a Kauai beach in June. The video showed her running away after the resting seal raised its head and snapped at her.

The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to reach the couple Tuesday.

There are an estimated 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands.

It’s a felony 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 fine.

The newspaper reported that authorities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contacted the couple over the weekend and assessed an undisclosed fine.

Dominic Andrews, a spokesman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, said an investigation is underway and declined to comment further.

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Parking ban sought during Kailua trail repairs

HONOLULU — A Honolulu City Council member has proposed banning unpermitted parking in an Oahu neighborhood while the state closes a popular trail nearby for two years to conduct repairs.

The state plans to close Maunawili Falls Trails in Kailua starting Thursday so it and a private landowner can preserve historic and cultural sites. It also plans to build parking and comfort stations.

The trail takes hikers through a lush forest to a waterfall.

As the trail has grown in popularity, neighbors have struggled with hikers parking illegally and trespassing as well as urinating in their yards and leaving behind dirty diapers.

Chris Nakamatu of the Maunawili Estates Community Association said about 1,000 people use the trail on the weekends.

City Council member Esther Kia’aina, who represents the area, told Hawaii News Now said she doesn’t expect people to stop coming when the trail closes. So she’s calling for a ban on unpermitted parking in the neighborhood during the closure.

The city already restricts parking for those without permits in a Kalihi neighborhood, she said.

“I think that this is the best way to balance the community’s needs with those that are trespassing,” Kia’aina said.

Neighbors say they support measures to control the crowds and revive the trail.