French-owned cruise company Ponant has paid a $3,000 fine for alleged harassment of Northern fur seals near Alaska’s Pribilof Islands.
The incident occurred August 15, 2016 near St. Paul Island, when the French-flagged cruise ship M/V Le Soleal launched small boats carrying tourists. The boats approached within 10 meters of a Northern fur seal breeding area, causing disruption of the seals’ behavioral patterns.
Following an investigation by the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, NOAA issued a Notice of Violation and Assessment on October 4, 2018 for $3,000 to Ponant USA, LLC, the owner of the cruise ship, charging the company with one count of taking Northern fur seals by Level B harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The fine amount was based on application of the NOAA Penalty Policy. The company elected to pay the fine in full.
The fine sends a strong message about the consequences of harassing marine mammals.
“Harassing fur seals on their rookeries is a serious matter,” said Jon Kurland, the director of the Protected Resources Division at NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office. “This population of fur seals is depleted, so anything that interferes with their successful breeding and pup rearing is a big concern. We encourage responsible wildlife viewing, but people need to keep a safe distance from marine mammals.”
Ponant has expressed a desire to improve its marine mammal viewing guidelines to ensure compliance with U.S. law. NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office has begun working with the company toward that goal.