Fishing Nets Likely Caused Monk Seal Drownings Off Kaua‘i, NOAA Says
Three deceased Hawaiian monk seals washed ashore on Kaua‘i during the latter portion of 2020. Investigators believe at least two of the three drown, according to the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The DLNR said constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic delayed completion of post-mortem examinations. However, considering recently received lab test results and information gathered by law enforcement officials, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now believes the seals found in September and November likely died after becoming entangled in lay gill nets. The third seal was severely decomposed, making it difficult to determine the cause of death.
Those who fish recklessly can cause devastating impacts to native and endangered species.
DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) rules require that a gill net used in the lay net fishing method not be left unattended for more than half an hour after being set and should be physically checked in its entirety two hours after its initial set. The best rule of thumb for lay net fishing is to always be present and vigilant when nets are set.
Because interactions between monk seals and lay nets continue to escalate, officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) have been increasing patrols, resulting in the removal of more unattended nets across the state.
“These monk seal deaths are, yet again, terrible and unnecessary losses,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “Monofilament (made from nylon fishing line) lay nets are imported modern fishing gear that is indiscriminate and deadly and have been banned elsewhere in the US. We are in discussions regarding how best to ensure seals and turtles are protected given ongoing drownings in lay nets.”
“Our state resources, both the fish we use for food and recreation, and the rare and endangered species that call these waters home are important parts of the history, traditions, and living resources we cherish,” said DAR Administrator Brian Neilson. “It is important that we find the balance to respect all our marine life. That means following respectful and logical regulations put in place to protect all resources both now and into the future.”
Keeping an eye out for illegal, unattended nets and contacting authorities if you see one is of great help to all fishers and the state’s native species. Anyone encountering a lay net or observing seals in close proximity to nets should report it immediately via the free DLNRTip app or by calling 643-DLNR (3567).