Hawaii officials were horrified to receive reports that swimmers were seen allegedly harvesting a dead whale's teeth and approaching its body — at least one man reportedly standing on top of it — while dozens of hungry sharks surrounded it.
Both state and federal officials with the Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, respectively, have been called to investigate after obtaining copies of a video that shows a man, who is currently unidentified, standing on the animal's carcass.
“If this incident or any others happened within state waters, state laws come into play. Additionally, since sperm whales are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, any violations could bring about federal charges as well…no matter whether they happen within state jurisdiction or further out to sea in U.S. waters,” said Jason Redulla, the chief of the Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
"The video of this man standing on top of the carcass is a clear violation of the law and it is also extremely culturally disrespectful," he added.
The whale was first spotted more than a week ago, the DLNR said. It was towed roughly 15 miles away from shore after it landed on the rocks at the Sand Island State Recreation Area, but the current has brought the animal closer to land once again. It is now located off the south shore of the island O’ahu.
The carcass will likely be towed farther out into the ocean once “calmer seas return,” the state agency said, adding “anyone tempted to touch the whale or remove any of the remains could face federal and state charges that could mean hefty fines and jail time.”
One local, Derin Goya, recently shared drone footage that shows sharks circling and biting at the carcass. It had more than 5,000 views as of Friday afternoon. It's not currently clear how the whale died.