Pro Surfer May Face Federal Charges After Dalliance With Sea Turtle

Pro Surfer May Face Federal Charges After Dalliance With Sea Turtle

Professional surfer Jamie O’Brien could face fines of up to $13,200 under a possible violation of the Endangered Species Act

Professional surfer Jamie O’Brien could face fines of up to $13,200 under a possible violation of the Endangered Species Act after being photographed with what appears to be a Hawaiian green sea turtle. Most reports say that O’Brien was riding the turtle, but others argue that O’Brien appears to be pretending to have inappropriate relations with it.

In light of a recent post on O’Brien’s Tumblr, the latter might make more sense. On October 27, he wrote:

Fibropapillomatosis of sea turtles is probably caused by a herpes-type virus, and is causing an epidemic amongst sea turtles. Sea turtle fibropapillomatosis (FP) was first discovered in 1938. FP is a disease marked by proliferation of benign but debilitating cutaneous fibropapillomas and occasional visceral alien.

While much research has been and continues to be done to find the causes and remedies for FP, there is a new and alarming development. Fibropapilloma tumors are starting to show up on other sea turtle species in increasing numbers! If the same pattern of infection occurs as was seen with green turtles, it will not be long before FP outstrips even homo sapiens as the single greatest threat to marine turtles.

If it is an attempt to draw attention to the plight of turtles, it surely must be one of the most misguided in the history of animal activism. Federal officials are looking to determine if charges will be brought.

“Our initial reaction is like, woah, what’s going on!?” said Pat Opay, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Endangered Species Branch chief. “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. In this particular instance this individual was actually riding the animal.

“If there’s an infraction of the ESA, the Endangered Species Act there are certain penalties that can be assessed. This incident has been referred to our NOAA enforcement group and they’re looking at it right now as we speak.”

O’Brien has been unavailable for comment. Also on October 27, he wrote via Twitter, “Lesson 4 Today: Heavy petting with turtles may lead to fortuitous relations with the reptile… & the forever disease.”

Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Showing 6 comments
  • Laurie

    Oh, please, everyone, GET A LIFE!

    These ridiculous agencies that do nothing except pose and push papers, that fiddle while Rome burns, that allow the corporate raping of the environment to the detriment of everything that lives in it, and then get all righteous (shocked! shocked, I tell you!) when somebody touches an animal. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    Leave O’Brien alone, and go after the corporate fascists who are the cause of what’s actually hurting turtles – the rape and poisoning of earth’s entire ecosystem.

  • Jason

    Well said Laurie. We could all be a little more tuned in if we were allowed / encouraged to interact with animals in this playful manner.

  • Joe

    Yeah, we should all take to fake-raping endangered wildlife. Sounds like a blast!

    And we should definitely be encouraged to play with wildlife because we all know how responsible human beings tend to be with animal and plant life when given the chance.

  • speedjohn

    Well said above, but it looks like this guy is trying to mount it. Sicko, I tell ya.

  • J

    It’s about respect of self and ones surroundings, and or the disregard of said respect. This chuklehead should be held responsible for his actions. He has no understanding of moana, of the honu!

  • Bailey

    First I was shocked by the photo, then angered by the headline (consider how many fisheries still operate without using TED (turtle excluding devices) on their nets – or the fact that poaching turtles is largely legal in Indonesia – the only country where as many as 6 out of 7 species nest). This pro surfer seems to really know his shit, & I’ll bet he has a large following on social media – so you have to wonder who is doing more for the turtles – even if physically giving them some lovin’ is a little over the top.

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