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Hooked Hawaiian Monk Seal Treated, Plans for Release Underway

February 3, 2022, 4:51 PM HST
* Updated February 3, 5:15 PM
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The Marine Mammal Center approved the release of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal back to Oʻahu after treating the animal for fishing gear ingestion at Ke Kai Ola, the Center’s hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona.

The seal R7AF, formally known as N2, was first observed on the Ka Iwi Coastline of O’ahu on Jan. 22. He had a wire fishing leader and a large swivel protruding from his mouth, indicating he had likely ingested a hook on the other end of the leader. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries staff responded to evaluate the seal’s condition, but it was not possible to attempt to remove the gear at the time due to logistical constraints. Officials say the seal was alert and appeared to be in good body condition.

NOAA Fisheries, with support from response partner Hawaii Marine Animal Response (HMAR), successfully captured the hooked juvenile male monk seal at Hanauma Bay on Jan. 27.

The veterinary team at Ke Kai Ola removed a large barbed hook attached to 9 inches of wire leader and a “pigtail” swivel.

“To quickly return this hooked juvenile seal back to his ocean home is an incredible success story and a testament to the importance of our ongoing partnerships to help save this species,” said Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, the Center’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Veterinarian. “As the only partner organization permitted by NOAA Fisheries to treat and rehabilitate Hawaiian monk seals, we’re proud to help give R7AF a second chance at life especially when the survival of each individual is critical to the recovery of the population.”

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Based on the seal’s health status and heightened risk for habituation due to its age, the Center recommended its immediate release, and NOAA initiated release plans.

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Approximately 30% of monk seals that are alive today are due to conservation efforts led by NOAA Fisheries and partners like The Marine Mammal Center.

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