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DLNR Reports Increase in Hooking of Monk Seals

October 24, 2020, 9:30 AM HST
* Updated October 24, 8:54 AM
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The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most critically endangered marine mammals in the United States. Photo: James Watt

The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) have concerns about a recent increase in harmful interactions between fishers and Hawaiian monk seals.

Twenty-four monk seals have been hooked in O‘ahu waters – a substantial increase compared to recent years, DLNR officials stated in a press release Friday.

Harmful interactions with seals can be decreased by following the Fishing Around Seals and Turtles (FAST) guidelines. This includes always keeping your eyes on your gear, avoiding casting to areas where monk seals are observed, and using barbless circle hooks.

Another serious issue observed recently is the intentional feeding of seals. On O’ahu’s Leeward Coast, where large nearshore schools of halalu (juvenile akule) have attracted numerous fishermen and monk seals, we have seen fishermen feeding halalu to nearby seals.

“While the fishermen’s intentions may be good, this is dangerous to both humans and the seals,” the release states. “In almost all cases, the seals will learn to associate people with food and increasingly poach off fishers, leading to even more interactions, possible seal injuries, and fishermen losing their catch.”

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Feeding or attempting to feed a monk seals is prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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“Seals that are fed adversely effects their ability to survive as wild animals and continuing to feed wild seals may eventually impact a very large number of fishers and resource users,” the release states.

If you observe any ocean user intentionally feeding monk seals, call The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Hotline at 888-256-9840. Never attempt to enter the water with a monk seal, even to “free it” from gear it may have ingested. Instead, call the Hotline, and DAR or NOAA employees will respond as soon as possible.

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