NOAA reveals name of tourist who harassed Hawaiian monk seal

HONOLULU — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the name of a tourist caught on video harassing an endangered Hawaiian monk seal while visiting Oahu, despite a request by his attorney to keep his name confidential.

Veniamin Khavrunyak paid a $500 settlement last month for a violation of the Endangered Species Act that took place on the western shore of Oahu in January, NOAA said. NOAA released his name in response to request by The Associated Press. The agency did not provide other details, including his age, or where he lives.

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A North Carolina attorney, Blake Long, said Monday he had requested that his client’s name be kept confidential, but now understands that NOAA complied with the Freedom of Information Act in releasing Khavrunyak’s name. Long said he wanted to protect his client from “severe backlash.”

Hawaiian monk seals are protected by U.S. and Hawaii laws.

“Several months ago, an incident involving the harassment of a critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal gained global attention after a viral video surfaced of a young man striking a seal at a popular beach destination on the Island of Oahu,” Long wrote in an apology letter.

“I am writing on behalf of the young man shown in the video, who retained my services in order to address the very serious ramifications he faced due to his violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Long wrote that the apology is meant to express his client’s “sincere remorse for his immature, inexcusable actions.”

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The video showed a man approaching a monk seal from behind and slapping its hindquarters, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Khavrunyak “is hopeful that his mistake will be used as an example of the types of conduct tourists must avoid when encountering wildlife,” Long wrote.

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