Monk seals are hurt and in need of help

Published  9:24 PM HST May 16, 2013
Monk seal

Monk seals hurt and in need of help. There's one on Maui and another on Molokai.

The 11-month-old female monk seal is punctured, with a 2.5 inch barbed circle hook. She's also dragging five feet of wires and fishing line. On Saturday, a fisherman in Maui thought he hooked a large ulua, instead he caught the seal.

"We do want to remove that hook because it's close to vital areas like the esophagus and arteries in the neck, and of course these can cause an infection," said NOAA Marine response manager David Schofield.

The infection can lead to death, one seal has already died this year from a swallowed hook.

"We are seeing an increase because there are more seals, and there are more people fishing," said William Aila with the Dept. of Land & Natural Resources.

Last year there were 14 seals hooked. This year there have already been four. A problem for the species whose numbers have dwindled from 2,800 to less than half at 1,100.

Scientists say seals are getting injured and hooked at a younger age. Like the one in Molokai who is less than a year old. The seal was reported recently as emaciated, sick and possibly injured.

"The reason why it has been hooked at such a young age is that it has developed undesirable behavior at a young age because people have been interacting with it and probably feeding it," said Schofield.

The DLNR says they may look cute and cuddly, but do not feed the monk seals or interact with them. The organization urges anyone who sees the monk seals to report it by calling the monk seal hotline at 1-888-256-9840.

Emaciated seal on Molokai

NOAA Permit #932-1905

Emaciated seal on Molokai

NOAA Permit #932-1905

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