Archive for July, 2020

Some monk seals like to roam far and wide, as we recently wrote about a few of those seals that have made the journey across the 80-mile, point-to-point Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel from Kauai to Kaena Point on Oahu.

Then, there are another group of seals. Those that stick close to home and can be counted on to appear in a handful of locations. The young RL58 is fast-becoming one of the most predictable to haul out in the same general location day after day–nearly 70 times year-to-date–very near her natal beach.

RL58 was the fifth-born pup of 2019. She was born to the famed RH58, also known as Rocky, and nursed for 45 days. She wasn’t the largest of weaners we’ve seen, measuring 118 cm long and 96 cm around (girth) at weaning; however, she’s survived the most crucial year of her life. She turned one-year-old on July 20th.

RL58 has also been described as “feisty,” a characteristic that likely came in handy in those early days post-weaning when rough-housing with other young seals. She also shows great equanimity when large older male seals occasionally haul out near her.

During her first year, RL58 has also experienced two significant cookie cutter shark bites–one near her genital slit and the other above her right fore flipper. Both wounds healed quickly and completely. She appears in a good healthy condition.

Now that RL58 has turned one year old, we start to think about RH58–who has been sighted on Oahu looking pregnant. In fact, her estimated due date is August 4th. If she behaves like she has so many times before, she’ll make the journey across the Kaʻieʻie Waho Channel a few days before her due date, appearing on her natal beach a day or night before giving birth again. So, we may have another pup soon.

Here is RL58 in one of her regular spots, a lava rock intertidal area a short distance down the coastline from her natal beach.


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Born on March 15th, PK1 nursed for 45 days. She’s now been foraging on her own for nearly three months, exploring somewhat beyond her birth beach and looking exactly like a healthy weaner!

Here a slide show of recent images taken by our Kauai Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Hui staff:

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Field Report: June 2020

The Kauai team logged 81 seal sightings this month. This included 18 individually identified seals.

June: 81
May: 147
April: 117
March: 200
February: 264
January: 319
December: 180
November: 223
October: 258
September: 203
August: 324
July: 239


·       RJ36 juvenile male seal was reported hooked on a west side beach. The seal was alive but exhibiting labored breathing. Unfortunately, by the time staff arrived, the seal had died. Six feet of heavy monofilament was leading from the seal’s mouth and tied to a pigtail swivel that is commonly used for slide-bait fishing. The line led down the seal’s throat, indicating the hook was ingested. The seal was in good body condition and had no obvious injuries or illness. The carcass was collected and placed in freezer storage for future necropsy. The most likely cause of death was internal injuries from a hook, however a full necropsy will help determine the overall seal’s health and hook injury.


·       Adult female R1KY appears pregnant and was observed logging/resting in shallow water on two occasions and hauled out on sand once. Her behavior the previous month appeared lethargic and odd, allowing wave wash to roll her around in an unusual manner. The sightings in June found her acting normal, and she is still large and likely to give birth soon.

·       Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue, which include:

o   Weekly surveys of key beaches by staff;

o   DAR staff conducting weekly island-wide Creel Surveys;

o   PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos; and

o   Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks.

·       The juvenile pup, PK1, continues to be resighted at her birth beach and is in good health.


·       The volunteer program has been placed on hold due to COVID-19. No volunteers were sent out in the field, however we continue to communicate with volunteers by email, this weekly blog, and by phone.

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You may have read the news that Green sea turtles are nesting at Bellows Beach on Oahu for the first time in recorded history, and that as a result, the beach park campground is closed.

It could be that turtles took advantage of reduced foot traffic on the beach due to COVID-19 to nest.

On Kauai, we have received reports of a dozen or more turtle nesting pits around the island, a significant jump over last year.

While 90 percent of Green sea turtles in Hawaii nest in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, comprising the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, some have also nested on every other main Hawaiian Island, according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Some years, more so than others.

Two years ago, Hurricane Walaka washed over an important islet for Green sea turtle nesting at French Frigate Shoals.

Green sea turtles are considered a threatened species in Hawaii and an endangered species elsewhere in the Pacific, and they are protected by federal and state laws.

According to Nina Wu, reporter with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Female green sea turtles, depending on size, can lay from 60 to 160 eggs per clutch, and can return in two-week periods to lay more over several months before leaving the nesting area. Sea turtle eggs usually incubate for about 60 days, after which hatchlings emerge and make a beeline for the ocean, guided by moonlight. Only 1 in 10,000 sea turtle hatchlings makes it to adulthood, by some estimates.”

Keep in mind, Green sea turtles will make “practice pits,” as they select an ideal site above the high tide line and, often, near the vegetation. It takes the right humidity and temperature for the turtle embryos to develop.

Green sea turtle nest Hawaii

Photo credit: Sheldon Plentovich

This photo of a recent nest laid on Oahu shows the tracks leading from the ocean and going straight back to the water. Note, the eggs are not in the depression but under the mound just to the left and a bit closer to the ocean. Most nests are not nearly so obvious and easy to detect. What also makes it challenging is some females will dig numerous practice pits before laying her eggs. In this case, tracks may lead from pit to pit before heading back to the water. If there is no mound, it could be that the turtle opted not to lay her eggs and abandoned the pits.

Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 6.52.42 PMThe primary turtle tracks we see on Kauai belong to Green sea turtles. But there are also Hawksbill turtles that will nest in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The tracks of Green sea turtles are symmetrical in nature; whereas, the tracks of hawksbill turtles alternate. That’s the easiest way to differentiate the species. Greens can also leave tail-point marks, too, centered between the flippers.

Green sea turtles can grow to three feet and 350 pounds. Hatchlings measure about two inches. Their lifespan is unknown, but they reach sexual maturity between 20 to 50 years of age. Green sea turtles are unique in that they only eat plants—primarily seagrasses and algae.

Obviously, if only one in ten thousand hatchlings survive, these turtles have many threats, including vehicular traffic on beaches, dogs and/or pigs digging up the nests, drowning by ocean swells and high tide, and climate change.

Here’s an interesting factoid: The sex of a turtle is determined by the heat of the sand during incubation with warmer temperatures tipping the scales for female development. A recent study in Australia revealed that as air temperatures have warmed, so, too, has the production of female Green sea turtles—in some cases 99 percent of juveniles are female. With those kinds of numbers, the result in coming decades could be the complete feminization of populations of Green sea turtles. And that probably doesn’t bode well for the long-term survival of the species.

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