VIA – KHON2
Photo shows Hawaii surfer riding turtle
Reported by: Ron Mizutani
An underwater photo taken of a professional surfer from Hawaii is making waves on the internet and has the full attention of federal authorities.
“Our initial reaction is like woah what’s going on!?” said Pat Opay, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Endangered Species Branch chief.
Professional surfer Jamie O’Brien appears to be riding on a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.
“You have to maintain your distance and we have guidelines stated guidelines that suggest don’t feed the animals, don’t pet the animals don’t ride the animals,” said Opay. “In this particular instance this individual was actually riding the animal.”
NOAA officials are concerned about the photo that is spreading on the internet like wildfire. Surfers believe it was taken off Oahu’s north shore.
“Not an ideal thing,” said Opay. “Again we don’t know much before or after, we just have that one picture of him on it so you don’t know what was occuring before or what the animal did when it was released.”
Although marine scientists have seen a rise in the green sea turtle population, they and other sea turtles in Hawaii are fully protected under both the federal Endangered Species Act and Hawaii state law.
Our calls to O’Brien and the photographer were not returned.
“If there’s an infraction of the ESA, the Endangered Species Act there are certain penalties that can be assessed,” said Opay. NOAA officials say fines for violating these laws can be as high as $13,200. “This incident has been referred to our NOAA enforcement group and they’re looking at it right now as we speak.”
For several years, tourists and local residents have flocked to Laniakea Beach on the north shore to get a close look at green sea turtles that eat limu on the rocks near shore. The turtles have become people friendly…
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