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Another Seal Lost.

Unfortunately, another young Hawaiian monk seal was found dead last week along the Anahola coastline. DOCARE and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement immediately responded and are conducting an investigation. The seal’s ID is unknown, as it was an untagged seal and had no other markings. The carcass was collected and will be necropsied at a later date. Information about the investigation and the reward for information is available here.

The intentional killing of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal is a violation of state and federal law. Hawaiian monk seals are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Under the ESA, it is illegal to unlawfully “take,” meaning to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct with respect to any endangered species or wildlife listed on the Endangered Species List.

Please note, there is a reward of up to $20,000 for information that leads to the issuance of a civil penalty of criminal conviction in one or both of these endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

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Turtle Tuesday #4: The Rescue of KA18.

In these virtual pages, there are numerous stories of injured Hawaiian monk seals that have been taken to rehab, and after a time of care, released back into the wild. There are not, however, any such stories about Hawaiian green sea turtles, honu. Until now.

It started in September with public reports about a lethargic turtle that was having trouble swimming and hauling out at various spots on the south shore. Eventually, it was decided the turtle needed rehabilitative care. The story of KA18 involved a multi-agency effort and resulted in a happy ending. You can read the entire story here.

“Unfortunately, there are times when our activities in Hawaiian waters cause injuries and death to wildlife,” said Mimi Olry, Kauai Monk Seal Response Coordinator at Hawaii State DLNR. “But we can reduce our impact on wildlife by fishing pono, using barbless hooks, not leaving fishing gear entangled on the reefs, boating slowly, picking up marine debris, and also by calling the marine wildlife hotline (888-256-9840) to report injuries so we can all participate to live harmoniously and care for one another.”

You can help in the continued care of KA18 by reporting any sightings of her to our local hotline: 651-7668. Any sea turtle sightings/stranding incidents of any kind on Kauai should also be reported to the same number.

When reporting KA18 on the beach, hereʻs the requested protocol:

  1. Keep a respectful distance of 10 feet or more.
  2. Take a photo (without disturbing the turtle).
  3. Record date/time, tag number, and location.
  4. Email to kauaiseals@gmail.com.

Here are a few more photos to go with the story posted here.

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Monk Seal Monday #112:

Last week, our NOAA Program Coordinator, Jamie Thomton gave a virtual Kauai update as part of a series of presentations by the Hanauma Bay (Oahu) Education Program. A recording of it can be watched here:

Also, now, all three 2020 Hawaiian monk seal pups–all females–have been bleached. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, pups have not been flipper-tagged this year, so for the near future, these bleach marks will serve as their “tag” identifiers.

The third born (PK3) and last pup to be bleached was V03. PK3 was born two days after and only several hundred feet away from PK2 on the same beach. Post-weaning, they’ve often been seen together. For the first few weeks, PK3 seemed to shadow the elder PK2, always hauling out near PK2. However, in the past week or so, PK3 has become more comfortable hauling out solo.

Eight-month-old V00 (PK1) has ventured away from her natal beach; however, she comes and goes. Her bleach tag, as evidenced in the photo below, has turned a greenish cast.

Some background on bleach marks: 

o Bleach “tags” are applied to the seal’s fur while it’s sleeping using standard over-the-ocounter human hair bleach.

o The “tag” is a letter + a two-digit number.

o Each bleach “tag” is unique to the individual seal.

o The high visibility of bleach “tags” prevents people from getting too close to take a photo or to attempt to read the small flipper tags that are applied to many seals.

o The bleach mixture does not harm the seal, and most seals are none the wiser about receiving it, as they tend to sleep through the process. There is no permanent mark left on the seal and there will be a fresh unmarked coat at the next molt. Harm to the environment is also unlikely. Such a small amount of bleach is used and it oxidizes so rapidly that much or all of the “bleach” has been dried and neutralized before the seal returns to the water.  

PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton
PC: J. Thomton

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Turtle Tuesday #3: Research

Hawaiian green sea turtles are known to forage throughout the entire Hawaiian Island archipelago. Yet, with the many miles of beaches around the Main Hawaiian Islands, it’s interesting that Hawaiian green sea turtles migrate several hundreds miles to one or two islets at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to breed. Here, 96% of the entire Hawaiian green sea turtle population nests.

After more than 45 years conducting a population census, beginning in 2016, NOAA’s Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program (MTBAP) expanded their research scope to answer growing scientific questions. 

  • Research from the 45 years of study indicate that females nest every three to five years. But what about males? How often do they return to their breeding grounds? 
  • What are the sex ratios of adult breeding populations?
  • Turtle embryos are known to be “temperature sex determinant.” That is, the incubation temperature of their nest determines the sex of hatchlings. Warmer temperatures produce more females; cooler temperatures produce more males. What are the current sex ratios of hatchlings and how might those ratios change as air and water temperatures increase? Are there going to be enough males to sustain the population?
  • What is the “pivotal temperature,” that is, the nest temperature that will produce a 50:50 ratio of males:females?

To answer these questions, scientists are using a variety of tagging techniques (including telemetry) to track the movements of turtles. They’re excavating more nests to determine number of eggs laid, number of eggs hatched. They’re also looking at nest characteristics—depth, location, and materials—and they’re using dataloggers to track nest temperature. They’re measuring and weighing hatchlings, as well as, taking teeny-tiny skin samples to determine kinship, using genetics to determine the presence of multiple paternity within nests.

When COVID-19 grounded NOAA’s Marine Turtle biology and Assessment Program earlier this year, the crew re-directed their efforts from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the Main Hawaiian Islands. 

Over recent years, more nesting has been observed in the Main Hawaiian Islands. On Oahu, for example, in recent years, fewer than 10 nests had been discovered. This year, that number rocketed close to 50. It could be the result of a greater survey effort. Maybe it was a reduction in the disturbance of nests due to COVID restrictions. But all those nests allowed researchers to re-direct their study protocols right here in the Main Hawaiian Islands. 

To learn more about the turtle research being done in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, watch this presentation by Marylou Stamon:

To learn more about the turtle research being done in the main Hawaiian Islands, watch this presentation by Christina Coppenrath:

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Over on Oahu, there’s been a recent spate of Hawaiian monk seals getting hooked on fishing lines. So, NOAA and Hawaii DLNR put together this video with tips on how to prevent hooking, as well as, what to do if you hook a seal or see a hooked seal. There’s some good information in here. Please watch and share.

Don’t Feed the Seals Web Feature, 7-10-18 from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

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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

New:

  • 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. 

Updates:

  • 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.

DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES 

DAVID Y. IGE
GOVERNOR 

SUZANNE D. CASE
CHAIRPERSON 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Sept. 11, 2020 

STATE AND FEDERAL AUTHORITIES SEEK INFORMATION ON MONK SEAL DEATH 

(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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Field Report: July 2020

The Kauai team logged 120 seal sightings this month. This included 22 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

Updates:

  • Pregnant adult female R1KY had been monitored for logging behavior in May and June. In July she was not sighted and likely went to Niihau to pup.
  • Due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, our new methods of monitoring continue, which include:
    • Weekly surveys of key beaches and areas by staff;
    • DAR staff conducting weekly island wide Creel Surveys;
    • PMRF staff continuing to send in routine reports and photos; and
    • 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.
  • Five 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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Let’s continue last week’s post about male hierarchical displays and posturing among Hawaiian monk seals. Because they’re at it again. But this time, they’re vying for the attention of a female. Not just any female. A pregnant one. A very pregnant one.

Last Thursday, when a very pregnant RH58 (yes, that RH58, also known as Rocky the Celebrity Seal) showed up after making the oceanic crossing from Oahu, another seal, seven-year-old RN30 appeared, too. (RN30 was born to in 2013 to first-time mom RO28, who died of toxoplasmosis earlier this year.) RN30 approached RH58, getting close enough for her to display in a manner that indicated she wanted him to back off. That is, she lifted her head, opened her mouth, and vocalized at him.

By the next morning, another male had arrived. This one, R3CD. He was estimated to be six when he was tagged in 2017. RN30 positioned himself between the RH58 and R3CD. The dynamics got really interesting when RH58 hauled her heavy body into the water for a gravity-free swim. The boys followed, of course, and RN30 worked hard to keep his position in between the two. While RH58 floated about languidly in the shallows, RN30 darted over to R3CD. They’d splash a bit. Then, he’d zip back to check on RH58. Rinse. Repeat.

But the antics were just getting started. Things got more interesting when another pregnant female showed up–RK28. Her appearance kept the boys busy while at the other end of the beach, RH58 quietly gave birth to PK2.

By day’s end on Friday, RN30 was still annoying RK28 while R3CD quietly watched over PK2 and RH58.

Sunday morning broke to reveal RK28 had given birth to PK3.

Now, the boys are still hanging around but not quite as attentive. Typically, once a pup arrives, the males’ interest wanes, leaving moms to snuggle (bond) and feed (nurse) their young.

And with that bit of background, meet PK2.

20200807 PK2-620200807 PK2-520200807 PK2-4

And PK3.

k28 + pk3 - 2k28 + pk3 - 1

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