Archive for September, 2020

Turtle Tuesday #2: Basking

A few of Kauai’s beaches are busy these days. Not necessarily with monk seals. Not even with humans. But with green sea turtles. More and more turtles are reported to be hauling out on beaches around the island. This behavior, whether it occurs during the day or night, is called basking, and it isn’t new. Turtles have been hauling out here and there around the island for years. What’s new are the numbers of turtles basking at one time–anywhere from 10 to 30. In some cases, even more. It can seem like a herd of rocks are washing ashore one after the other. Only instead of a “herd,” a group of turtles is called a “bale.”

Photo credit: Troy Warwick.
Photo credit: Troy Warwick.
Photo credit: H. Kallai.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why turtles bask. In fact, the only known place in the world where sea turtles exhibit this behavior is Australia, Galapagos Islands and Hawaii.

One reason most scientists agree that sea turtles bask is to regulate their body temperatures and to conserve energy, as reptiles often do. But not all sea turtles haul out on the beach to thermoregulate. They are also known to bask on the ocean’s surface.

Other reasons turtles may bask include: To aid immune function and digestion, to avoid predators, to aid egg development, and, possibly, to discourage unwanted courtship.

As ocean temperatures around the world increase, some scientists believe there will come a day when turtles no longer haul out onto beaches to bask. This study suggests that due “to projected future warming at basking sites, terrestrial basking in green turtles may cease globally by 2100.”

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Field Report: August 2020

Monthly Update: 

  • The Kauai team logged 198 seal sightings this month. This included 29 individually identified seals.
    • August: 198
    • July: 120
    • June: 81
    • May: 147
    • April: 117
    • March: 200
    • February: 264
    • January: 319
    • December: 180
    • November: 223
    • October: 258
    • September: 203
    • August: 324


  • RH58 (Rocky) gave birth to female pup PK2 at a remote north shore beach on August 7. Pup is healthy and thriving. No issues to report.
  • RK28 (KC) gave birth to female pup PK3 at a remote north shore beach on August 9. Pup is healthy and thriving.
  • Adult female, R8HE, hauled out at a remote north shore beach and looked extremely large and pregnant. This seal moves between the Big Island and Maui mostly, with infrequent sightings on Oahu, Kauai and Niihau. Her birthing locations are unpredictable, but have included Maui and BI in the past. She was gone the following day.
  • Adult female, RK14, a regular Kauai seal, is likely pregnant. Public photos submitted of RK14 at Ke’e Beach confirm her large size. She normally pups on Niihau. 


  • Shoreline fishing activity levels continues to be high around the island, including near moms and pups. Seal outreach signage has been posted clearly for fishers to read.
  • Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue, which include:
    • Weekly surveys of key beaches by DLNR and NOAA staff;
    • DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys;
    • PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos;
    • Requesting that people who call the hotline to report seals assist us by sending several photos and setting-up SRA signs or sticks. 
  • The weaned pup, PK1, continues to be resighted at her birth beach and is in good health.
  • 1 seals molted this month and required minimal management.

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.

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Monk Seal Monday #108: Sad News.

You may have already heard the sad news: Officials are investing the suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal. This is an active investigation. Anyone who has information about this is strongly urged to contact DOCARE at (808) 643-DLNR (3567) or use the free DLNRTip app available for iPhone and Android devices. Or call the OLE enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964. Here’s a copy of a statement made last week by Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.





Sept. 11, 2020 


(Līhuʻe, Kaua‘i) – Law enforcement officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and  

Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s  

Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) are investigating the death of a juvenile Hawaiian monk seal on Kaua‘i. This was reported on Thursday in the Anahola area and the cause of death of this seal is currently unknown. 

Killing a Hawaiian monk seal is both a federal and state crime with severe penalties. Under  

Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, the state legislature made intentionally or knowingly killing a monk seal a felony…believing these acts are so egregious to warrant a felony penalty. Anyone convicted of this, or other killings of monk seals, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Anyone who has information about this is strongly urged to contact DOCARE at (808) 643-DLNR (3567) or use the free DLNRTip app available for iPhone and Android devices. Or call the OLE enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964. 

# # # 

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In 2019, the south shore volunteer team was managing two, three, four and sometimes as many as six or seven seals at Poipu at the same time. Challenging times, indeed. Sometimes all seals clustered in one zone; sometimes they spread out over two or even three zones. Of course, the most challenging spot to manage human/seal interactions was the spot that seals liked most, which happened to be the main snorkeling water entrance/exit. In one emergency, lifeguards had to carry a drowning victim over two resting seals, literally, to bring her ashore for CPR. The good news is the rescue was a success, and the person recovered fully.

Then, earlier this year, when the COVID stay-at-home orders were instituted, the volunteer program was placed on hold, and tourism came to a virtual halt. We expected that the seals at Poipu would enjoy resting undisturbed. However, since the pandemic began, the seals seem to have disappeared from the Poipu area. One reason may be there are fewer people on the beaches, so there are fewer calls coming in the hotline. Make sense. But was there something else going on?

Here’s what a review of the data from the daily sightings log revealed:

As expected the number of seals reported in the Poipu area during April-August of this year dropped to a total of 73 sightings. The prior year, during the same five month window, there were a total of 257 reported seal sightings.

A comparison of the individual seals sighted in Poipu in 2019 versus 2020 during that same April-August window revealed the number of unique seals identified in the Poipu area dropped from 21 unique seals in 2019 to 12 in 2020. Too, there’s a slightly different cast of characters hauling out at Poipu this year.

Notably, the notorious “Poipu boys,” a group of rough-housing male seals, have split up with several moving to Oahu, and a couple others moving back to Niihau. From that notorious group, only RG58 remains, and he’s often spotted on the rocks near Brenneckes Beach these days.

Also, two seals from 2019 that occasionally hauled out at Poipu have died—RK30 of old age late last year and RJ36 of a hook ingestion several months ago. Apart from the loss of these two, all the other Poipu regulars of last year are still alive, based on sighting reports across the state.

What this tells us is seal behavior isn’t static, and just when you come to expect the expected out of a seal or group of seals or a particular haul-out location, things change.  As the old philosopher Heroclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Guess he was talking about seals, too.

For more specifics take a look at the list of seals seen in 2019 and 2020.

April through August 2019 – These 21 individuals comprised the 257 reported seal sightings in the Poipu area from Shipwrecks to Lawai Beach):

NG00 -sighted at PMRF in 2020 and frequently on Niihau
R336 – rare seal
R339 – now an Oahu regular
R3CX – now an Oahu regular
R402 – rare seal
R6FQ – sighted elsewhere on Kauai on 2019 and 2020
RF28 – now an Oahu regular
RG22 – now an Oahu regular
RK30 – died of old age in late 2019
RK36 – occasional visitor from Oahu
RN02 – sighted at PMRF in 2020 and frequently on Niihau
RW22 – occasional visitor from Oahu

April through August 2020 – These 12 unique individuals made up the 73 reported seal sightings in the Poipu area (Shipwrecks to Lawai Beach): 

R340 – rarely sighted on Kauai
R407 – rarely sighted on Kauai
RJ36 – died from hook ingestion in the first half of 2020

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