A Massachusetts couple had the best intentions when they rescued a baby seal over the weekend, but their act of kindness could result in a $5,000 fine.
Weymouth residents Mark Hodgdon and fiancee Mary Johansson were scuba diving at a Marshfield beach when they came upon a baby seal covered in bite marks.
They brought the seal ashore and called a volunteer from the New England Aquarium, who refused to touch the seal and promptly returned it to the ocean. Now, the couple may face a hefty fine for violating the Marine Mammals Protection Act.
Hodgdon and Johansson were in the water at about 1:30pm when they encountered the little seal, which they say was having difficulty keeping its head above water to take a breath.
‘As I got a little bit closer, he just swam closer to me and jumped right up on my shoulder,’ Hodgdon told Fox 25.
Johansson recorded Hodgdon lifting the two-foot seal onto a raft, at which point the seal pup appears to bestow a kiss on Hodgdon’s nose.
He brought the seal to shore and called marine officials, but when the volunteer arrived, Hodgdon claims they didn’t want to help.
The couple say the volunteer didn’t seem to think the seal was in trouble, and asked them how the couple knew the seal was injured.
‘He turned around and asked me, “How do you know he’s really hurt, did you take an X-ray?”‘ Mark told Fox 25.
The couple was horrified when the volunteer released the seal back into the ocean.
‘They’re supposed to be there to help these little animals and they did nothing, nothing,’ said Johansson. ‘It breaks my heart.’
‘I think he probably drowned,’ Johansson said. ‘He’s been on my mind every minute since Sunday.’
Touching marine mammals, including seals, is a violation of the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, and now the couple could face a $5,000 fine.
They are in good company, with members of the Kennedy family also facing the penalty for recently helping an endangered turtle in the waters off Nantucket.’This is a wild creature, asking you to help it out,’ Hodgdon told Fox 25. ‘Why wouldn’t you do it?’The New England Aquarium said that while the couple’s intentions were good, the best course of action would have been to call the U.S. Coast Guard and stay near the creature in the water until help arrived.