Feeds:
Posts
Comments

One more recap for 2021. Here you’ll find the top ten Hawaiian monk seals “reported” on Kauai during 2021. “Reported” seals are those that were called in—and identified—to the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui hotline. (See a monk seal on the beach? Report it to 808-651-7668.)

However, what’s not included in this list are pups born in 2021. That’s because regular “pup watches” by dedicated volunteers tend to skew pup “reported” numbers. And because moms spend the first four to six weeks of their pups’ lives right by their sides, they’re also not included in this list–at least, their time with their pups is not included. Because you’ll see our number one reported seal was RK28, a mom, and 105 of her reported sightings did not include days with her pup KP3.

So, here’s the Top Ten list for 2021:

  1. RK28 – 105 reports
  2. RM36 – 70 reports
  3. R2XW – 61 reports
  4. RM28 – 50 reports
  5. Temp606 – 42 reports
  6. R353 – 40 reports
  7. RG58 – 38 reports
  8. temp607 – 37 reports
  9. RL08 – 36 reports
  10. R1KY – 36 reports

This list is quite different from last year. To compare years, click here. To learn more about each of these seals, scroll down until you find their permanent ID number under the “categories” column on the right and click on their ID. That will return a list of all the previous mentions of them on this website.

Like data? Here’s some numbers crunched from 2021.

Hawaiian Monk Seal Management Stats:

Grand sightings total: 

o   2,377 or 6.5 seals sightings/day on Kauai in 2021

o   2,005 or 5.5/day in 2020

o   3,154 or 8.9/day in 2019

o   3,253 or 8.9/day in 2018

o   3,621 or 9.9/day in 2017 

o   3,236 or 8.9/day in 2016

o   3,321 or 9.1/day in 2015

o   2,516 or 6.9/day in 2014

Kauai population: 

o   65 unique individual seals sighted on Kauai in 2021

o   67 in 2020

o   67 in 2019

o   60 in 2018

o   60 in 2017

o   56 in 2016

o   53 in 2015

o   47 in 2014

Births: 3 total born on Kauai in 2021

o   2 pups born on the north shore

o   1 pup born at Polihale Beach, translocated the north shore after weaning.

Mortalities: 2 confirmed mortalities in 2021:

o   R1NI: 3-year-old male. Cause of death undetermined.

o   KA210DX3: Unknown dead newborn seal found by public on north shore.

Niihau Seals (likely): sighted a minimum of 8 new seals in 2021, but likely more as several new untagged seals had no markings or scars to identify them, so no temporary IDs were assigned (8 in 2020, 5 in 2019, 9 in 2018, 12 in 2017, 6 in 2016, 14 in 2015).

Displacements: 5 total displacements occurred.

o   5 displacements from the Poipu Keiki Pool. 

Vaccination for morbillivirus efforts: 

o   6 seals were vaccinated

Bleach marking effort: 

o   4 bleach marks were applied

Stranding Responses in 2021: 

Cetacean response:

o   A subadult pygmy sperm whale stranded dead on the south shore. The carcass was sent to the UH Health and Stranding lab for necropsy. Cause of death was determined to be vessel strike.

o   Near mass stranding of 40 pilot whales in Hanalei bay – out of habitat animals spent a day in Hanalei Bay exhibiting unusual behavior typically observed prior to animals beaching themselves. The pod moved offshore overnight.

o   A dead adult male sperm whale drifted ashore near Kilauea. No necropsy was possible due to the location and conditions.

Hawaiian monk seal responses: 

o   RK58 – sustained serious dog-bite injuries that led to systemic infection. He was sent to Ke Kai Ola monk seal hospital for care and was successfully released on Kauai two months later. 

Seal entanglements come in many forms. There’s nets, monofilament, and various ropes and lines used in the fisheries industry. But there are also large rubber bands used in commercial crab posts and plastic packing straps. In Alaska, packing straps cause more than 50 percent of neck entanglements in Steller sea lions, according to NOAA

In South Africa, Cape fur seals are also particularly vulnerable to neck entanglements with plastic box bands. This video shares the inventive response by volunteers to help save entangled Cape fur seals. Note the specially-created tool designed to cut bands from the seals’ necks.

A couple years ago, a team with the Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui created their own unique tool to disentangle a piece of gill net from the muzzle of RK13. That technique has now been shared with other Hawaiian monk seal responders.

Hagfish traps are also a problem. They’re cone-shaped and have been known to get stuck on the muzzle of inquisitive—often, young—seals. If the traps are not removed, the seal won’t be able to forage and will eventually die of starvation. Surfrider Foundation’s Hawaii Chapter is currently cataloging hagfish traps that wash ashore in Hawaii. You can help by documenting any you find on (and remove from) the beach. Report the number of traps found and forward photos to hagfish@surfrider.org

The thing all these entanglement hazards have in common is their material construction—they are made out of some form of plastic. It’s important to help seals by reporting (call 808-651-7668) any entangled seals on the beach. Also, helping conduct beach cleanups on your own or with groups like Surfrider. There are many components involved in the solution. Two, they suggest, are reducing plastic use overall and becoming an advocate.

A third way to help is to support others in their noble missions. On Kauai, several groups are attempting to make a difference right at home. The nonprofit Ho‘omalu Ke Kai was recently featured in The Garden Island. They’re hoping to collect plastic before it ends up in the ocean or the landfill in Kekaha. They clean plastic that’s not recyclable through County of Kauai and make it available to Plastic Paradise who upcycles the plastic into products like chairs and picnic tables. Learn how you can help the Ho’oponopono Plastic Program here.

Unfortunately, there have been more intentional killings of Hawaiian monk seals on Molokai, NOAA reported last week. All the major news media in Hawaii–and beyond–covered the story, each article repeating some of the same information but also adding good bits of information. If you missed it, here’s a round-up of the stories:

DLNR IN THE NEWS, DEC. 22, 2021

HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

Monk seal fatally shot is third death on Molokai this year

By Leila Fujimori  Today 

VIDEO COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Federal and state wildlife officials are investigating the intentional fatal shooting of a young, female Hawaiian monk seal known as L11 on Molokai.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal that was found dead on Molokai in September was shot in the head with a gun, federal officials said Tuesday.

It was the third intentional killing of a monk seal on the rural island in 2021 and the seventh in the past 10 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Two young juvenile males were killed by “blunt force trauma” in April. The cause of death for several other seals on Molokai were inconclusive because of decomposition or the carcasses washing out to sea before examinations could be conducted.

Killing the endangered species is a state and federal crime. Historically, monk seals have sometimes been perceived as a nuisance or competition to people who are fishing.

Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte, who lives on Molokai, said the problem is “going from bad to worse” and is rooted in “the misunderstanding that the monk seal is an invasive species brought here by the federal government. But the truth is that these seals have been here before the Hawaiians.”

“They are seen as a pest,” he said.

Hawaiian monk seals, found only in Hawaii, are a critically endangered species protected by federal and state laws. A population of only about 1,400 remains in the wild.

The latest seal to be killed, dubbed L11, was born on Molokai in 2020 and found dead Sept. 19 on the south shore, NOAA said.

HAWAII MARINE ANIMAL RESPONSE VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal known as L11, shown on a beach on Molokai, was intentionally killed with a gun in September. The young female seal suffered a gunshot wound to her head.

Ritte said many residents who rely on subsistence fishing view the seals as competition, but “it’s not an excuse to go around killing them. The seals are trying to survive in the ocean, and the ocean is getting so depleted that everyone is trying to survive with limited resources.”

He noted the monk seal is named in the Kumulipo origin chant and that some families consider it an aumakua, a guardian deity. He urged federal and state officials to do more to educate residents about the monk seal’s connections to Hawaiian culture.

In a news release, NOAA said, “Our Molokai partners are resilient and dedicated stewards of Hawaiian monk seals and other native marine species. We are committed to continuing our engagement with partners and community members to exchange information and support protection of natural resources and cultural traditions on Molokai.”

No arrests have been made in any of the monk seal deaths.

“Make no mistake, folks. These intentional killings are evil, despicable acts perpetrated against an endangered animal in its own natural habitat,” state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said Tuesday during a news conference. “Those responsible must be held accountable.”

He said over the years seals have been intentionally killed across the state but that what makes these latest incidents more troubling is that there have been three on Molokai in less than a year. Redulla said DOCARE personnel are working closely with NOAA to increase enforcement presence on the island.

Killing a monk seal is a felony that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, he added.

Anyone with information concerning the incident should call NOAA OLE at 800-853-1964 or DOCARE at 808-643-DLNR (3567); anonymous tips may be submitted via the DLNRTip app.

Wildlife officials seek suspect after Molokai monk seal fatally shot in head

By Nina Wu Tuesday 

G. PUIG-SANTANA / NATIONAL PARK SERVICE\

Hawaiian monk seal L11 snoozed on the sand at Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai in September.

Federal and state wildlife officials are investigating the intentional shooting of a young, female monk seal known as L11 on Molokai which resulted in her death in September.

Officials had earlier announced she was found dead on Sunday, Sept. 19 on the south shore of Molokai. She was one of the pups born on the island last year.

Now officials have confirmed that L11 died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head after a postmortem analysis determined she suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment.

She is the isle’s third endangered monk seal intentionally killed on Molokai, considered a Class C felony, which can lead to up to $50,000 in maximum fines and up to 5 years in prison.

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case in a news release. “Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”

Seal experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are waiting for test results to determine whether L11 had any diseases, but do not expect them to change the conclusion of the postmortem exam.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement have actually investigated a total of 10 monk seal deaths on Molokai— nine this year and one last year — but the exact causes of death of many were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances.

A newborn female and male pup, along with a nursing pup were among the deaths. The newborns died of reproductive complications, according to NOAA, while the nursing pup’s death was inconclusive.

But the death of two juvenile males — RJ08 and RK92 — in April were due to blunt force trauma.

NOAA says that due to similarities to other cases, some seal deaths that were deemed inconclusive may. have also been intentional killings, and are considered open cases for law enforcement.

“We are grateful for the quick response mounted by community members who are part of Hawaii Marine Animal Response, the State of Hawaii, and others, said NOAA in a web post today. “These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of postmortem analyses.”

NOAA continued with, “Our Molokai partners are resilient and dedicated stewards of Hawaiian monk seals and other native marine species. We are committed to continuing our engagement with partners and community members to exchange information and support protection of natural resources and cultural traditions on Molokai.”

Hawaiian monk seals, found only in Hawaii, are a critically endangered species protected by federal and state laws. Only a population of about 1,400 remain in the wild.

Anyone with information about the deaths of the Hawaiian monk seals should contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or DOCARE at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or the free DLNRTip app.

OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction.

HONOLULU CIVIL BEAT

Endangered Monk Seal Died Of Gunshot Wound To The Head, Authorities Say

It was at least the third monk seal to be intentionally killed by humans this year on Molokai, government officials said.

By Marcel Honore / December 21, 2021 

Federal and state authorities announced Tuesday that the female monk seal found dead near Molokai’s Kawela Stream on Sept. 10 was killed by a bullet wound to the head – and they’re seeking the public’s help to find who killed her.

That seal, known as L11, was about a year old and known for her playful and curious nature, one local conservationist said. She was also one of at least three of the critically endangered animals that were intentionally killed by humans on Molokai in 2021, according to the authorities.

“Make no mistake,” the killings of L11 and two other monk seals by blunt-force trauma in April were “evil, despicable acts perpetrated against an endangered animal in its own natural habitat,” said Jason Redulla, chief of the state’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement.

“Someone has information whether they know it or not,” he added.

The monk seal known as L11, an approximately 1-year-old female, was killed in September on Molokai when someone shot her in the head. Authorities are seeking help from the public to find who killed her. Courtesy: NOAA/2021

In all, nine of the endangered animals were found dead on the Friendly Isle this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A 10th died in May 2020. Officials deemed the cause of death for five of those seals on Molokai inconclusive because their carcasses were either too badly decomposed when found or were swept out to sea.

Nonetheless, NOAA officials say they suspect several of the seals in those inconclusive cases were intentionally killed by humans as well, and the investigations remain open.

Since 2009, some 15 monk seals were confirmed to have been killed intentionally by humans in Hawaii, all on the islands of Molokai and Kauai, according to Angela Amlin, the Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

In recent years at least four seals have died from gunshots — including a pregnant female, according to a NOAA fact sheet.

It’s unclear whether there’s been an increase in the intentional killings in recent years because authorities have also received more alerts on monk seals from a growing number of volunteer networks and from a NOAA statewide hotline, Amlin said Tuesday.

The animals, which are endemic to Hawaii, also face peril from toxoplasmosis, a disease that originates in cat feces, and from fishing hooks and nets. There have been 15 confirmed monk seal deaths from toxoplasmosis alone since 2001 “and probably many more,” Amlin added.

Overall there are about 1,400 monk seals across the Hawaiian archipelago, including some 300 to 350 of them in the main islands. 

Their numbers in the wild have seen some modest gains in recent years – about 2% annual growth between 2013 and 2019. Amlin said data collection on the species wasn’t as sharp in 2020 due to Covid-19, and the data for 2021 isn’t yet available.

Still, a NOAA press release on Tuesday called the intentional killings of the animals “devastating to the recovery of this population.” 

“We are committed to engaging with partners and community members to exchange information and support protection of natural resources and cultural traditions on Molokai,” the release added.

Todd Yamashita, Molokai operations manager for the nonprofit Hawaii Marine Animal Response, said via text Tuesday that there’s been active “disinformation” campaigns on the island to convince locals that seals are “stealing” their fish and that they have the right to stop any animal that gets in the way of that.

The seals consume relatively small amounts of food in a given area and the majority of their hunting occurs far offshore, Yamashita said. “The idea that seals are taking fish off our table is just as misplaced as saying that sharks are eating all the fish in the ocean. It’s simply untrue.”

The 1-year-old Hawaiian monk seal known as L11 was found dead on Molokai in September near the mouth of the Kawela river. Courtesy: Todd Yamashita/2021

Amlin added that the intentional killings “are not broadly reflective of the Molokai and Kauai communities” that have deep-rooted traditions of stewardship.

Molokai is home to roughly 70 monk seals and sees at least a dozen seal births each year — the most of any of the Main Hawaiian Islands, according to Yamashita.

Redulla said that the investigations into monk seal killings are especially difficult because the animals “really don’t have any way to tell us how they got killed except for the evidence that’s found at the scene.” 

NOAA thanked Hawaii Marine Animal Response, which aims to rescue and protect monk seals, and state authorities for recovering L11’s carcass quickly and in sufficient condition to determine what killed her. A NOAA release says a bullet fragment was found in association with evidence of severe, lethal trauma. NOAA is awaiting test results to see if L11 had any diseases, but does not expect the results to change.

Killing monk seals is a state and federal crime with a punishment of up to five years in prison under state law alone, Redulla said.

Authorities encouraged anyone with information about the deaths of monk seals to contact NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567). They can also use the DLNRTipapp on their phones. 

“This is a very sad and difficult time — to know that one of our people here on Molokai would choose to hurt these critically endangered animals,” said Yamashita, a fourth-generation resident of the rural island.

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Endangered Seal Found on Hawaii Beach Was Shot to Death

The shooting is the third deliberate seal killing of 2021 on the island of Molokai, investigators said. “Why would somebody do that?” one resident asked.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal that was found dead on the island of Molokai.Credit…Hawaii Marine Animal Response, via Associated Press

By Mike Ives

Dec. 22, 2021, 4:23 a.m. ET

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal that was found dead on a beach in September had been deliberately shot in the head, officials said on Tuesday, in the third intentional seal killing of 2021 on the same island.

The seal shooting on Molokai, a sparsely populated island northwest of Maui, is the seventh intentional one there in the past decade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Such killings are significant blows to a landmark species with only 1,400 or so surviving members.

The latest victim, a young female known to researchers as L11, was found dead on Molokai’s South Shore in September. The dead seal was reported to the authorities by Dr. Boki Chung, a local dentist.

Dr. Chung found the seal on a beach where she walks her dogs. She later told a journalist that she had been surprised to see a bruise around one of its eyes, suggesting that someone had attacked it.

“Why would somebody do that?” she said, according to a report by the news site Honolulu Civil Beat.

L11 died from an “intentional gunshot wound to the head,” the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources announced on Tuesday. “It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” the department’s chairwoman, Suzanne Case, said in a news release.

Two other Hawaiian monk seals that washed up on Molokai in April died of “blunt force trauma,” according to NOAA. A total of 10 have died this year, including two by reproductive complications, the agency said on Tuesday.

A Hawaiian monk seal. They are the most endangered seal or sea lion species in the United States.Credit…Andre Seale/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

In other cases, the cause of death was inconclusive because the carcasses were heavily decomposed or had washed out to sea.

The species — named for a thick fold of skin on its neck that resembles a monk’s robe — is the only marine mammal found solely in United States waters, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Adults typically measure more than 6.6 feet and weigh 400 pounds to 600 pounds.

Hawaiian monk seals are the most endangered seal or sea lion species in the United States, according to the Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit in Sausalito, Calif.

The species is also the only seal that has evolved to live in the tropics, John Henderson, a retired NOAA researcher, said in a 2019 conversation with a colleague that was published on the agency’s website.

“Staying cool can often be as much of a challenge as staying warm,” he said.

The estimated population of Hawaiian monk seals is about 1,400 and grew by about 2 percent from 2013 to 2019, according to NOAA. Most of them live in a remote group of Hawaiian islands, atolls and shoals that span 1,200 nautical miles. Only about 300 live on Hawaii’s eight main islands, including Molokai.

The leading causes of death in the population include toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a parasite that is shed into marine environments through cat feces, and entrapment in fishing nets, according to NOAA.

Intentional killing is a top threat to the population’s recovery in the main Hawaiian Islands, Angela Amlin, the Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator at the agency’s Pacific islands fisheries office, said in a brief statement on Tuesday.

NOAA said in September that six seal fatalities on Molokai from 2021 that were under investigation at the time represented an unprecedented number of deaths over a nine-month period.

“A lot of seals found dead,” an unnamed investigator from Hawaii’s conservation police said in a video of a Molokai field investigation that state officials uploaded in May. “I think the seals deserve better.”

HAWAII TRIBUNE HERALD & WEST HAWAII TODAY

Endangered Hawaiian monk seal shot in head on Molokai

By MATT GERHART Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 12:05 a.m.

In this undated photo provided by the Hawaii Marine Animal Response, an endangered Hawaiian monk seal known by officials as L11 is shown on a beach on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. Federal officials said Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 that the seal was intentionally killed with a gun in September. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said in a statement that the young female seal suffered a gunshot wound to its head. (Hawaii Marine Animal Response via AP — Permit #18786)

By CALEB JONES

Associated Press

HONOLULU — An endangered Hawaiian monk seal that was found dead on the island of Molokai in September was intentionally killed with a gun, federal officials said Tuesday.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said in a statement that the young female seal suffered a gunshot would to its head.

This was the third intentional killing of a monk seal on the rural island in 2021 and the seventh in the past 10 years, according to NOAA. Two others were killed by “blunt force trauma” on Molokai in April.

“These intentional killings of this endangered species is devastating to the recovery of this population,” the NOAA statement said.

There are only a few hundred monk seals left in the main Hawaiian Islands. About 1,100 more live in the remote, uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The endangered seals are found nowhere else.

The cause of death for several other seals on the island were inconclusive because of decomposition or the carcasses washing out to sea before examinations could be conducted.

Killing the endangered species is a state and federal crime and the deaths are being investigated. Historically, monk seals have sometimes been perceived as a nuisance or competition to people who are fishing.

At a news conference Tuesday, state officials said they have no indication of who might be responsible for the “egregious” killings.

“Make no mistake folks, these intentional killings are evil, despicable acts perpetrated against an endangered animal in its own natural habitat,” said Hawaii’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla. “Those responsible must be held accountable.”

The killings are felonies that carry a penalty of up to five years in prison, Redulla said.

Suzanne Case, the chair of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, noted local outrage at visitors who harassed monk seals earlier this year and called for a similar response to the killing of the seal that was shot in the head.

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” Case said. “Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of (this seal) and the others taken by human hands.” 

THE MAUI NEWS

Officials on the hunt for suspects in monk seal killings

NOAA confirms young monk seal killed on Molokai died of gunshot wound

Dec 22, 2021 Colleen Uechi

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal known by officials as L11 is shown on a beach on Molokai in this undated photo provided by the Hawaii Marine Animal Response. Federal officials said Tuesday that the seal was intentionally killed with a gun in September. Hawaii Marine Animal Response photo via AP (Permit #18786)

A Hawaiian monk seal found dead on Molokai in September was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, the third confirmed intentional killing of a monk seal on the island this year and the seventh on Molokai in the past decade, federal fisheries officials said Tuesday.

The young female seal, known as “L11” because of the temporary bleach mark applied to her fur, was found dead along the island’s south shore on Sept. 19. Postmortem analyses revealed “a bullet fragment in association with evidence of severe, lethal trauma,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. NOAA was waiting on test results to see if the seal had any diseases but said it did not expect the results to change these conclusions. 

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” state Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson Suzanne Case said in a news release Tuesday. “Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and others taken by human hands.”

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement investigated several other seal deaths on Molokai this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances.

Of the 10 monk seal deaths on Molokai from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 13, 2021, three were killed (two by blunt force trauma and another by gunshot), two died due to reproductive complications and five were inconclusive, according to NOAA data. 

“Make no mistake folks. These intentional killings are evil, despicable perpetrated against an endangered animal in its own natural habitat,” DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla said during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. “Those responsible must be held accountable.”

Investigating monk seal deaths can prove challenging because they often occur in rural areas that are difficult to access, Redulla explained. And, unlike humans, who have relatives who could provide information on what the person may have been doing before they died, the seals have no one to vouch for their whereabouts or report possible suspects. 

“These animals cannot speak to us. They really don’t have any kind of way to really tell us how they got killed except for the evidence that’s found at the scene, and because of these challenges, investigating these kinds of cases are very difficult and complicated,” Redulla said. 

He added that residents may have information on the case “whether they know it or not,” perhaps a car on the side of the road that looked unusual or a person in the area who didn’t belong there.

“If people have this kind of information, please come forward so we can take a look at it,” Redulla said. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have a whole lot of information and that’s why we’re making the plea now, and hopefully by making this announcement and letting people know about how egregious the act was in killing this seal, that people will be motivated to come forward and share whatever information they have that might help us identify who’s responsible.”

Todd Yamashita, Molokai director of operations for Hawaii Marine Animal Response, which helped to preserve seal L11’s carcass for examination, said Tuesday that “this is a very sad and difficult time to know that one of our people here on Molokai would choose to hurt these critically endangered animals.” L11, a yearling born last year in Kalaupapa, was “known for her playful and curious nature.”

Yamashita expressed concerns about a group of commercial fisherman from Oahu who he said have been spreading disinformation and becoming increasingly active in the Molokai community. 

“The message being spread is that the fish in the ocean belong to you and that if any law, person or animal gets in the way then you get rid of that law, person or animal,” Yamashita said via text Tuesday evening. “They are telling people that seals are ‘stealing’ their fish.

“The fact of the matter is that these seals eat about a pound of food per square mile and majority of their hunting occurs far offshore. The idea that the seals are taking fish off our table is just as misplaced as saying that the sharks are eating all the fish in the ocean. It’s simply untrue.”

Yamashita encouraged people who come across seals to give them at least 100 feet of distance. If they get used to being around humans, they are more likely to interact with fishermen and fishing gear, he explained. He also asked people to report sightings to the NOAA hotline at (888) 256-9840 so officials can track the animals. 

“Most of us here have great respect for these animals and realize the seals play an important role in our ecosystem and that it is our kuleana to practice respect and stewardship toward these seals and all living things,” Yamashita said. 

When asked about concerns over local or commercial fishermen possibly seeing the seals as competition and taking action, Redulla responded that “the fact of the matter in this case is we don’t know who’s responsible.”

“Whether it’s a fisherman, whether anything that might be said out there is true, the fact of the matter is we don’t know,”he said. “And that’s why we’re asking people to come forward with information so that we can evaluate it.”

The three cases in which humans are suspected of killing the seals remain under active investigation, and Redulla said he wasn’t aware of any arrests. He added that to his knowledge, this was the first time a bullet fragment had been found in a seal.

Taking of monk seals, which are federally protected, is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison under state law, Redulla said. 

“Without going into the details, we are working very closely with our federal partner, the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, in increasing our enforcement presence on the island of Molokai in order to deter future acts,” he said.

Anyone with information about the deaths of Hawaiian monk seals should contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at (808) 643-DLNR (3567), or use the DLNRTip app. 

NOAA may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction. 

Monk seal deaths on Molokai

Since 2020, there have been 10 Hawaiian monk seal deaths on Molokai, including three whose deaths officials say were caused by humans. 

With the seals often located in rural areas with few witnesses, and the carcasses in decomposing condition, cases can be hard to investigate. 

Here’s what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries knows about the stranding dates, ages, cause of death and conditions of monk seal deaths on Molokai from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 13, 2021: 

• May 24, 2020; unidentified adult male; cause inconclusive; heavily decomposed and unable to be examined.

• Jan. 29, 2021; unidentified adult male; inconclusive; heavily decomposed with minimal examination.

• Feb. 1, 2021; unidentified adult female; inconclusive; heavily decomposed with minimal examination.

• April 10, 2021; newborn male pup RPX1; reproductive complications (fetal stress); full examination conducted.

• April 27, 2021; sub-adult male RK92; blunt force trauma; full examination conducted.

• April 27, 2021; sub-adult male RJ08; blunt force trauma; full examination conducted.

• May 13, 2021; newborn female pup RPX2; reproductive complications (failure to thrive); full examination conducted.

• May 25, 2021; sub-adult female RK44; inconclusive; carcass washed out to sea.

• June 3, 2021; nursing pup RPX3; inconclusive; carcass washed out to sea.

• Sept. 19, 2021; juvenile female RMM1/L11; gunshot; full examination conducted. 

KHON2

Hawaiian monk seal found dead from intentional gunshot 

by: Elizabeth Ufi  Posted: Dec 21, 2021 

RK40 nosing around in the sand. (Courtesy: DLNR/L. Macpherson)

HONOLULU (KHON2) — An endangered Hawaiian monk seal was found dead from an intentional gunshot wound to the head on Moloka’i on Sept. 19.

According to a postmortem analysis the young female, known as L11, suffered lethal trauma from a bullet fragment.

This is now the third intentional killing of a federally and state protected seal on Moloka’i this year. Both NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) have been actively investigating the deaths.

Angela Amlin from NOAA said, “this type of action is not broadly reflective of the Moloka’i community and their deep rooted traditions of marine resource stewardship.” 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case brought up the public’s response to when a visitor slapped a monk seal on the back.

“We trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands,” said Case.

In April, two male monk seals were found deceased from blunt force trauma.  Both NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) have been actively investigating the deaths of these monk seals. 

Monk seals are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Killing a monk seal is a Class C felony that can result to 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $50,000.   

In a web posting today, NOAA stated that the quick response by Hawai’i Marine Animal Response and others, “ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses.”

Check out what’s going on around the nation on our National News page

Anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian monk seals can contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app.

KITV4

Hawaiian Monk Seal “L-11” shot to death, necropsy determines 

By David Hixon  Dec 21, 2021 

L11 snoozes on the sand at Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

Credit: National Park Service/G. Puig-Santana

A post-mortem examination of the Hawaiian Monk seal known as “L-11”, who was found dead on the shores of Moloka’i on Sept. 19, 2021, revealed that an intentional gunshot killed the endangered animal.

KAUNAKAKAI, Hawai’i (KITV4)—A post-mortem examination of the Hawaiian Monk seal known as “L-11”, who was found dead on the shores of Moloka’i on Sept. 19, 2021, revealed that an intentional gunshot killed the endangered animal.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, L-11 was a juvenile female born on Moloka’i in 2020, identifiable by a temporary bleach mark on her side.

The necropsy, conducted by NOAA, was initially delayed due to COVID-19 conditions. However, the examination positively determined that “severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment” caused L-11’s death.

The Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) labeled this is the third intentional Monk Seal slaying in 2021 on Moloka’i alone.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said that this incident is currently under investigation, and called for the public’s assistance.

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward. Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands” Case said.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the DLNR are urging anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian Monk Seals to contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNR Tip app. The intentional killing of a monk seal is considered both a state and federal crime. Rewards may be issued to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction.

She was identified by a temporary bleach mark on her side, as “L11” one of the pups born on the island in 2020.

HAWAII NEWS NOW

Officials determine monk seal on Molokai died of gunshot wound to head

By HNN Staff

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and NOAA are seeking information regarding the death of a monk seal who was shot on Molokai in September.

Officials said the Hawaiian monk seal, known as L11, died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head on Sept. 19.

DLNR said a postmortem analysis determined that the young female “suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment.”

Authorities said this is the third intentional killing of a monk seal on Molokai this year.

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.

“Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”

Officials said intentionally causing harm or killing a monk seal is both a state and federal crime.

Anyone with information is asked to call the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR or use the DLNRTip app.

Shooting death of endangered monk seal leads to hunt for person responsible

By Chelsea Davis Published: Dec. 21, 2021 

https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2021/12/22/investigators-hawaiian-monk-seal-intentionally-shot-killed-molokai/

MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) – Federal and state agencies have launched investigations after a Hawaiian Monk Seal was found shot and killed on Molokai.

The young female, known as L11, was found on a beach on the island’s southwest shore back in September with a gunshot wound to her head.

An investigation revealed her death was intentional.

“These intentional killings are evil, despicable acts perpetrated against an endangered animal in its own natural habitat. Those responsible must be held accountable,” said Jason Redulla, Chief of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE).

L11 was born last year on the Friendly Isle.

“We’re deeply saddened to have this news, and this is absolutely inconsistent with our goals for monk seal recovery,” said Angela Amlin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator.

Monk seals are native to Hawaii and are endangered.

Amlin said there are only about 1,400 of them left and about 300 of those are in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Officials say this marks the third confirmed intentional killing of a Hawaiian Monk Seal on Molokai this year. The others died from blunt force trauma.

“This is happening way too often,” said Molokai resident and Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte.

Ritte is appalled and said he thinks the deaths may be linked to a fight over fish.

“I get really angry when the fishermen tell us that the seals are interfering in their fishing,” Ritte said. “The seals belong to the realm of Kanaloa, of the ocean, that’s their realm, we’re interfering in their realm.”

Ritte is calling on his community to do better.

“I’m pissed off,” he said. “We’re gonna try and find out who the heck is doing this.”

Officials said there may be a reward for information leading to an arrest.

“The fact of the matter is we don’t have a whole lot of information. That’s why we’re making the plea now,” said Redulla.

Those who have information may call (800) 853-1964. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA/ONLINE

MAUINOW.COM

Gunshot Wound is Confirmed as Cause of Death for Moloka‘i Monk Seal

December 21, 2021

NOAA Fisheries has confirmed that Hawaiian monk seal L11 is confirmed to be the victim of an intentional killing by gunshot wound to the head. The young female seal was found dead on Molokaʻi on Sept. 19, 2021. This marks the third confirmed intentional killing of a monk seal on Molokaʻi in 2021 and the seventh on Molokaʻi in the past decade.

“These intentional killings of this endangered species is devastating to the recovery of this population. We are committed to engaging with partners and community members to exchange information and support protection of natural resources and cultural traditions on Molokaʻi,” according to a spokesperson with NOAA Fisheries. 

L11 snoozes on the sand at Kalaupapa National Historical Park (Credit: National Park Service/G. Puig-Santana) 

A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment. Further testing by NOAA to determine whether the seal had any diseases is underway but is not expected to change the conclusion of the postmortem examination, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. 

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement investigated several other seal deaths on Moloka‘i this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances. 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward. Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”   

In a web posting today, NOAA expressed its gratitude to the quick response mounted by Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response, DLNR, and others. “These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses,” the blog noted. 

OLE and DOCARE are urging anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian Monk Seals to contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app. The intentional killing of a monk seal is both a state and federal crime. OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction. 

Hawaiian Monk Seal Deaths on Molokaʻi 1/1/2020–12/13/2021 (Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) 

BIGISLANDNOW.COM

Authorities Seek Information on Monk Seal Shot, Killed on Moloka‘i

December 21, 2021, 9:33 AM HST 

Authorities are reaching out to the public for information on the shooting death of a young female Hawaiian monk seal on Molokaʻi in September.

According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, or DLNR, the monk seal, known as L11, died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head on Moloka‘i on Sept. 19. A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment.

Further testing by NOAA to determine whether the seal had any diseases is underway but is not expected to change the conclusion of the postmortem examination.

Courtesy of DLNR

This is the third intentional killing of a federally and state-protected seal on Moloka‘i in 2021. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, or OLE, and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, or DOCARE, investigated several other seal deaths on Moloka‘i this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances.

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” stated DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”

In a web posting today, NOAA expressed its gratitude to the quick response mounted by Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR), DLNR, and others.

“These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses,” the blog noted.

OLE and DOCARE are urging anyone with information about the deaths of Hawaiian monk seals to call the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app.

The intentional killing of a monk seal is both a state and federal crime. OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction.

BIGISLANDGAZETTE.COM

Authorities Seek Information on Monk Seal Shot & Killed on Moloka‘i 

Dec 21, 2021

A monk seal, known as L11, died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head on Moloka‘i on Sept. 19th. A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment. Further testing by NOAA to determine whether the seal had any diseases is underway but is not expected to change the conclusion of the postmortem examination. 

This is the third intentional killing of a federally and state protected seal on Moloka‘i in 2021. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) investigated several other seal deaths on Moloka‘i this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances. 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward. Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”   

In a web posting today, NOAA expressed its gratitude to the quick response mounted by Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR), DLNR, and others. “These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses,” the blog noted. 

OLE and DOCARE are urging anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian Monk Seals to contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at (808) 643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app. The intentional killing of a monk seal is both a state and federal crime. OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction. 

BIGISLANDTHIEVES.COM

State and Federal Authorities Seek Information on Monk Seal Shot and Killed on Moloka’i

December 21, 2021

Photo Courtesy of DLNR

A monk seal, known as L11, died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head on Moloka‘i on Sept. 19th. A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment. Further testing by NOAA to determine whether the seal had any diseases is underway but is not expected to change the conclusion of the postmortem examination. 

This is the third intentional killing of a federally and state protected seal on Moloka‘i in 2021. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) investigated several other seal deaths on Moloka‘i this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances. 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward. Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.”   

In a web posting today, NOAA expressed its gratitude to the quick response mounted by Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR), DLNR, and others. “These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses,” the blog noted. 

OLE and DOCARE are urging anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian Monk Seals to contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app. The intentional killing of a monk seal is both a state and federal crime. OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction. 

Hawaiian Monk Seal Deaths on Molokaʻi 1/1/2020–12/13/2021  

(Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) 

Date of Stranding Age/Sex/ID Cause of Death Notes 
9/19/2021 Juvenile female (RMM1/L11) Gunshot  Full examination conducted 
6/3/2021 Nursing pup 
(RPX3) 
Inconclusive Carcass washed out to sea 
5/25/2021 Sub-adult female (RK44) Inconclusive* Carcass washed out to sea 
5/13/2021 Newborn female pup (RPX2) Reproductive complications (failure to thrive) Full examination conducted 
4/27/2021 Sub-adult male 
(RJ08) 
Blunt force trauma Full examination conducted 
4/27/2021 Sub-adult male 
(RK92) 
Blunt force trauma Full examination conducted 
4/10/2021 Newborn male pup (RPX1) Reproductive complications (fetal stress) Full examination conducted 
2/1/2021 Adult female (seal ID unidentified) Inconclusive* Heavily decomposed; minimal examination 
1/29/2021 Adult male 
(seal ID unidentified) 
Inconclusive* Heavily decomposed; minimal examination 
5/24/2020 Adult male 
(seal ID unidentified) 
Inconclusive* Heavily decomposed; unable to be examined 

*Due to similarities to other cases, some seals whose causes of death were deemed inconclusive may have also been intentionally killed and are considered open cases for law enforcement.

NOAA web post: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pacific-islands/endangered-species-conservation/hawaiian-monk-seal-updates

KAUAINEWSNOW.COM

Kauai News

‘Evil, Despicable Acts’: Officials Plea for Info on Brutal Monk Seal Death

By Tom Hasslinger Posted December 21, 2021 

Officials are outraged at the brutal shooting death of a monk seal on Moloka‘i, calling on Tuesday for anybody with information to notify authorities investigating the killing.

“Someone has information whether they know it or not,” said Jason Redulla, chief of the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have a lot of information right now. That’s why were making this plea.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 21, news broke that a monk seal, known as L11, died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head on the south shore of Moloka‘i on Sept. 19. A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment.

It marks the third conclusive intentional monk seal death on Moloka‘i in 2021, and seventh in the last decade. Two died in April of blunt force trauma to the head. Five others died in 2021, but the cause of death cannot be determined.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the Department of Lands and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) are investigating. Killing a monk seal is punishable under state and federal laws. The state lists it as a Class C felony, punishable up to five years in jail.

Redulla said any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem to the person with it, should be brought forward. Any clue, whether it was a type of vehicle on the south shore of the island on the date in question, can prove to make the difference.

“Make no mistake folks, the intentional killings are evil, despicable acts, Redulla said.

Ingrid Biedron, spokeswoman for NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, said the office couldn’t comment on the open investigation, but that people should call the enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 if they have information.

“We don’t want to speculate on what motivates a person to commit this type of crime,” she said. “We can say that this kind of action is not broadly reflective of the Molokaʻi community and their deep rooted tradition of marine resource stewardship.”

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement may issue rewards to individuals who provide information that leads to an arrest, conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property for violation(s) of the laws and regulations NOAA enforces.

DLNR FACEBOOK

Hawaii DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources)

Published ·

STATE AND FEDERAL AUTHORITIES SEEK INFORMATION ON MONK SEAL SHOT AND KILLED ON MOLOKA‘I

A monk seal, known as L11, died of an intentional gunshot wound to the head on Moloka‘i on Sept. 19th. A postmortem analysis determined that the young female suffered severe, lethal trauma from a bullet fragment. Further testing by NOAA to determine whether the seal had any diseases is underway but is not expected to change the conclusion of the postmortem examination.

This is the third intentional killing of a federally and state protected seal on Moloka‘i in 2021. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) investigated several other seal deaths on Moloka‘i this year but their exact causes of death were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward. Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of seal L11 and the others taken by human hands.” 

In a web posting today, NOAA expressed its gratitude to the quick response mounted by Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR), DLNR, and others. “These individuals ensured that L11’s carcass was collected promptly and preserved in fresh condition, which enhanced the quality of the postmortem analyses,” the blog noted.

OLE and DOCARE are urging anyone with information about deaths of Hawaiian Monk Seals to contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964 or the DOCARE hotline at 808-643-DLNR (3567) or via the DLNRTip app. The intentional killing of a monk seal is both a state and federal crime. OLE may issue rewards to individuals who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction.

NOAA webpost: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/…/hawaiian-monk-seal…

DOCARE officer investigating monk seal deaths on Molokai:

Post Impressions

13,524

NEWSWEEK.COM

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal was intentionally shot in the head on the island of Molokai in September, federal officials said Tuesday, becoming the third intentional killing of a monk seal reported this year on the island, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The monk seal was a young female, NOAA officials said. She was pup born on Molokai last year known as L11, according to the Star-Advertiser. This is also the seventh intentional killing of the animal in the past decade, NOAA reported.

NOAA seal experts are awaiting test results to see if L11 had any diseases, but believe the results will not change the conclusion of the postmortem exam, which determined fatal trauma from a bullet fragment, the Star-Advertiser reported.

The other two monk seals killed on Molokai this year were inflicted with “blunt force trauma” in April.

“These intentional killings of this endangered species is devastating to the recovery of this population,” the NOAA statement said.

Killing a Hawaiian monk seal is a Class C felony, which can result in a maximum fine of $50,000 and sentencing of up to five years in prison, according to the Star-Advertiser.

There are only a few hundred monk seals left in the main Hawaiian Islands. About 1,100 more live in the remote, uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The endangered seals are found nowhere else.

The cause of death for several other seals on the island were inconclusive because of decomposition or the carcasses washing out to sea before examinations could be conducted.

Killing the endangered species is a state and federal crime and the deaths are being investigated. Monk seals are sometimes perceived as a nuisance or competition to people who are fishing for sustenance.

Suzanne Case, the chair of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, noted local outrage at visitors who harassed monk seals earlier this year and called for a similar response to the killing of the seal that was shot in the head.

“It is past time for anyone who has information on the killing of this seal and the others to step forward,” Case said. “Earlier this year many people were outraged when a visitor slapped a seal on the back, and we trust the level of indignation we saw associated with that incident will be exceeded by the despicable shooting of (this seal) and the others taken by human hands.”

MORE COVERAGE OF MONK SEAL SHOOTING VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Houston Chronicle) https://www.chron.com/news/article/Endangered-Hawaiian-monk-seal-shot-in-head-on-16720278.php

(WFUV Radio) https://wfuv.org/content/endangered-hawaiian-monk-seal-found-shot-head-molokai

(National Public Radio) https://www.npr.org/2021/12/21/1066616984/endangered-hawaiian-monk-seal-is-found-shot-in-the-head-on-molokai

(St. Louis Post Dispatch) https://www.stltoday.com/news/national/endangered-hawaiian-monk-seal-shot-in-head-on-molokai/article_bdb32a0c-ad78-5460-9d1f-34b793026050.html

(U.S. News & World Report) https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2021-12-21/endangered-hawaiian-monk-seal-shot-in-head-on-molokai

(Kaumakani.com) https://www.kaumakani.com/endangered-hawaiian-monk-seal-shot-in-head-on-molokai/

(YouTube.com) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiQhUahsfAs

(Patabook.com) https://patabook.com/news/2021/12/21/endangered-monk-seal-intentionally-shot-in-head-3rd-killing-reported-this-year-in-hawaii/

Hawaiian monk seals aren’t the only pinnipeds threatened by marine debris entanglements. It’s a worldwide problem. And there’s a worldwide response effort. Meet the Pinniped Entanglement Group–or PEG.

The Pinniped Entanglement Group (PEG) is a global community (> 70 members in 8 countries) dedicated to the safety and welfare of pinnipeds. PEG activities include: entanglement prevention, outreach and education, innovative disentanglement techniques, and rescue.

https://internationalmarinedebrisconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/6IMDC_PEG_Poster_3.7.18_FINAL_KRS-Kim-Raum-Suryan-NOAA-Federal-1.pdf

You’ll see Hawaiian monk seals are listed as a target species, as are Northern fur seals. Here’s an impressive 10-minute montage of numerous responses to entangled Northern fur seals. Because the life history of Northern fur seals is distinctly different from Hawaiian monk seals, the response protocols to entanglements is different, as well. And super interesting.

Monthly Update: The Kauai team logged 168 seal sightings this month. This included 24 individually identified seals.

  • November: 168
  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218
  • May: 209
  • April: 155
  • March: 137
  • February: 119
  • January: 125
  • December: 119
  • November: 133

New:

·       Juvenile female R2XW was displaced from the Poipu keiki pool, per the Poipu Management Plan. Adult female RK90 was also displaced from the keiki pool on a separate day.

Updates:

·       Nothing to report.

Morbillivirus Vaccination: RP28 received her booster vaccine this month.

Molting: 3 seals molted this month, including adult male R6FQ who molted at the extremely busy snorkeling point at Poipu.

Research/Support of PIFSC:

·       Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.

·       Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

Remember RH92? She’s turning into an earlier achiever.

She was born to RK22 in May 2016. Shortly after weaning, a fisherman witnessed a dog attack her. Luckily, the puncture wounds weren’t deep; however, she was given antibiotics to stave off any possible infection. Then, she started feeding off scraps at a boat harbor, so she was translocated to a remote beach elsewhere on the island. Except that she returned to the boat harbor within a couple weeks. Luckily, an outreach campaign and regular law enforcement patrols reduced the amount of fishing scraps, and RH92 left the immediate area, foraging more widely. Then, in November 2018, at the young age of two-and-a-half, RH92 made the open-ocean crossing to Oahu where she has been regularly sighted ever since.

Now, again at a relatively young age, this time five-and-a-half years, RH92 looks like she might be pregnant. Or she’s found some rather good foraging grounds. If pregnant, she just may decide to return to Kauai to give birth. This is not uncommon in Hawaiian monk seals; it’s something known as “natal philopatry,” the tendency for an animal to return to their birthplace to breed. In the case of Hawaiian monk seals, we often—but not always—see females return to their birthplace to pup.

If you see RH92 on the beach, please take photos from a respectful distance and call/text 808-651-7668.

[Photo credit: HMAR.]

Let’s talk smell.

Hawaiian monk seals have two vertical slits for nostrils that are adapted to close when they dive, begging the question how much do Hawaiian monk seals rely on a sense of smell when flipping over rocks on the ocean floor in search of, say, flat fish like flounder? Or when they stick their nose in a puka in rock, hopeful to snag a lobster or eel for a good meal? For that matter, what about when Hawaiian monk seals are hauled out on the beach, and their nostrils are open?

Turns out there are probably more questions at this point in time than there are published scientific papers on Hawaiian monk seals and their sniffing prowess.

Let’s tackle the use of smell on land (air) by taking a look at other seal species. 

Take Antarctic fur seals. According to The Wire, when this species gives birth, mothers nurse their young for some four months. During that time, mothers leave their pups on the beach and head to the sea to search for food. They may be gone for up to 10 days. When they return, researchers suggest mothers rely on smell to sniff out their own pup from the many others on the beach. 

Researchers believe the same is true of Harbor seals.

More closely related to Hawaiian monk seals, the Mediterranean monk seal is also thought to use smell in mother-pup bonding. According to the Eastern Adriatic Monk Seal Project, “…sense of smell plays an important role in the life of a Mediterranean monk seal as scent and sniffing is used intensively in the first weeks of a newborn pup’s life in order to communicate and find its mother in the dark caves where they live.”

Compared to Antarctic fur seals, Hawaiian monk seals nurse their young for a fraction of time—four to six weeks instead of four months. While nursing, Hawaiian monk seals don’t leave their pups alone on the beach to forage. And Hawaiian monk seals birth their pups on beaches, not in caves like Mediterranean monk seals. Interestingly, especially at islands and atolls in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, it’s not uncommon for pup-switches to occur among Hawaiian monk seals. That is, moms and pups get mixed up. It happened on Kauai in 2018 when there were three moms and pups on the same beach.

Researchers propose there are more uses of smell among Antarctic fur seals. They may rely on “signature scents” to mate with unrelated seals, according to the same article in The Wire. Because fur seals tend to colonize, they may use smell as a way to form stable social groups.

But what about when foraging? How might smell be involved? Steller sea lions possess a large number of olfactory receptor genes, possibly because they are more terrestrial, that might help them hunt for food. 

This unique research paper posits that “aquatic carnivores” forage “noseblind,” that is without airborne chemical cues and, thus, have reduced olfactory anatomy, especially among deep-divers, relative to closely related land-based carnivores. That is, if sense of smell isn’t a critical component to their way of life, the anatomy that supports it diminishes over time in an adaptive response. Why build it if it’s not needed?

Over millennia, Hawaiian monk seals have adapted to their tropical ecosystem in unique ways. They don’t “colonize” in the same ways as some seals. They don’t birth their pups in caves. They spend the vast majority of their lives at sea. They can dive as deep as 1,800 feet; however, average foraging dives of several hundred feet. So, just how great—or not—is Hawaiian monk seals’ sense of smell? Good question.

This will be updated as more information come to light.

Monthly Totals: The Kauai team logged 229 seal sightings this month. This included 29 individually identified seals.

  • October: 229
  • September: 251
  • August: 213
  • July: 286
  • June: 218
  • May: 209
  • April: 155
  • March: 137
  • February: 119
  • January: 125
  • December: 119
  • November: 133
  • October: 152

Updates:

·       Flipper-tagged KP3 (3rd pup of the year) as RP28 and vaccinated for morbillivirus.

·       Morbillivirus Vaccination: RP28 received her initial vaccine this month.

·       Molting: 4 seals molted this month

Research/Support of PIFSC:

·       Sub-sampled scat, molt, and tissue plug samples accordingly.

·       Logged all seal sightings for PIFSC database. Organized photos and reported sightings, molt tallies, survival factors to send to PIFSC.

News from Ke Kai Ola:

Unfortunately, the adult male monk seal known as RW22 died after more than five weeks in care at the Monk Seal Hospital in Kona, Hawaii Island. RW22 was flown from Oahu to Hawaii Island for treatment of a parasitic disease known as toxoplasmosis. RW22 was also suffering from malnutrition, the effects of ingested fishing gear.

Toxoplasmosis is the number one disease threat to Hawaiian monk seals.

In a press release issued by The Marine Mammal Center, Angela Amlin, Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator at NOAA Fisheries, said. “With no vaccine available for toxoplasmosis, preventative measures must be taken by the general public. This disease is spread into the environment exclusively via cat feces. To help protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals like RW22 from toxoplasmosis, simply dispose of cat litter in the trash, keep your cats safe indoors and tell your community about how they too can prevent this disease from harming more marine mammals.”

After canceling last summer’s field season in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, NOAA’s field crew returned this spring, staying through the summer, making every day and minute count.

They collected population data, identified individual seals, tagged weaners and yearlings, disentangled seals and turtles, surveyed basking and nesting turtles, surveyed Laysan ducks, staged marine debris for pickup, and assisted in numerous additional conservation and research activities on behalf of conservation partners.

The field crew left civilization behind for tents, canned food, and starry starry nights, and you can read about their efforts and their experiences here in a very thorough report of their tremendous effort. 

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/challenges-satisfaction-and-lots-monk-seal-pups-during-2021-field-season