First Monk Seal Death Of 2013 Could Have Been Prevented With Earlier Reporting

Latest Monk Seal Death Increases Concern Of Fishery Impacts

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this morning reported that a juvenile monk seal flown by the U.S. Coast Guard from Hawai‘i Island to O‘ahu last Friday for medical treatment has died. A necropsy conducted by NOAA Fisheries revealed that the young male seal, known by his ID tags as RK68, suffered fractured ribs earlier in life, but ingestion of a fishing hook more recently is believed to be the cause of death.

Results of the necropsy reveal that the seal may have been hooked for several weeks or months. Officials believe had they received a detailed report of the hooking incident when it occurred, the chances of a life-saving response could have been much greater.

“Early reporting of a monk seal hooking can possibly mean the difference between life and death for one of these critically endangered animals,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. “We rely on the community to be active and mindful stewards of our oceans. Had someone come forward, even anonymously, to report this hooking when it occurred, we may have been able to save his life.”

“It is certainly discouraging to see the number of hookings continue to increase, but it is alarming when monk seals lives are needlessly put at greater risk because people fail to report hookings as they occur,” noted Charles Littnan, Lead Scientist with NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Program. “We remain strongly committed to studying monk seal behavior so we can find means of mitigating these interactions, but we depend on community members to provide us information on interactions. The more we receive public reportings of hookings and other interactions, the quicker we will be able develop solutions for mitigating these situations.”

The toll-free, 24/7 reporting hotline for all fishery interactions and other marine mammal incidents is tel:1-888-256-9840. DLNR and NOAA Fisheries urge all fishermen and other ocean users to write down this hotline and/or save it in their mobile phones for timely use whenever a seal is hooked or entangled.

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