Hawaiian Monk Seal Updates
Get the latest monk seal updates from NOAA Fisheries in the Pacific Islands.
Independence Day for a Hawaiian Monk Seal!
On June 23, 2019, a conscientious fisherman reported to NOAA that he hooked a seal. Volunteers and staff with Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response and Kaʻena Point State Park located the seal after nearly two weeks of searching, and NOAA staff subsequently captured the adult seal this past Independence Day weekend and brought him in for care. NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Program veterinarians successfully removed a hook, line, and sinker from the stomach of the seal using endoscope technology. After observing and treating the seal at the NOAA facility on Ford Island, NOAA released the seal at Mokulēʻia Beach, Oʻahu over the weekend. NOAA Fisheries is looking forward to working with the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources and the fishing community to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent future monk seal hookings.
Deceased Monk Seal Pup at Baby Makapuu
On Saturday, April 20, 2019, NOAA Fisheries staff and responders with Hawaii Marine Animal Response recovered the carcass of a days-old, male Hawaiian monk seal pup at Baby Makapuu tide pools, in Waimanalo, and transported it to the NOAA Inouye Regional Center facility. We do not currently know the identity of the pup's mother. We will conduct a postmortem examination on April 29, 2019, in an effort to determine a cause of death, and we will provide updates as they become available.
Sad News About RI37
Adult female Hawaiian monk seal found dead.
March 14, 2019
Since the initial update regarding the death of RI37/Ipo, NOAA Fisheries has been pursuing additional analyses to help discern the cause of her death and would like to share what we have learned. Substantial decomposition made it difficult to come to a definitive conclusion, but we were able to rule out many potential causes of mortality.
There was no evidence of toxoplasmosis or leptospirosis. Given all the information we were able to gather, we believe it is most likely that the death was caused by a traumatic injury. It is important to note that we do not have enough information to speculate as to the type of injury, and we cannot rule out natural vs. human-caused, so we are not treating this as a suspicious incident at this time. Our findings suggest that the injury was fairly recent, but did not cause immediate mortality, and we do not believe the injury occurred in the location of the stranding. There was no evidence of head trauma, no external scrapes/cuts/bruises, and we did not identify any broken bones; however, it is possible that blunt trauma caused injury to the soft tissues.
February 8, 2019
We are saddened to report that adult female Hawaiian monk seal RI37 (born to the well known seal R5AY, or "Honey Girl") was found dead on the west side of Oahu on the morning of February 5, 2019. The initial examination and necropsy did not reveal a definitive cause of death, primarily due to decomposition. RI37 was in excellent nutritional condition and was not pregnant at the time of death. Tissue samples will be examined further to look for causes of death that could not be detected during the necropsy.
Eels in Seals, a Slippery Situation
How does an eel end up in the nose of a seal?
December 5, 2018
In the nearly 40 years that we have been working to monitor and protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, we have only started seeing "eels in noses" in the last few years. Yet, our researchers have observed this phenomenon three or four times now. We don't know if this is just some strange statistical anomaly or if we will see more eels in seals in the future.
Hawaiian monk seals forage by shoving their mouth and nose into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks, or into the sand. They are looking for prey that likes to hide, like eels. This may be a case of an eel that was cornered trying to defend itself or escape. Alternatively, the seal could have swallowed the eel and regurgitated it so that the eel came out the wrong way. We might never know.
All of the seals that we have encountered in this slippery situation have been quickly caught by our response teams and the eel gently and successfully removed. The seals were released and haven't shown any issues from the incidents.
It's A Record Year For Pups in the Main Hawaiian Islands!
A record number of pups were born in the main Hawaiian Islands in 2018, be sure to enjoy observing them from a respectful distance.
November 2, 2018
So far in 2018, 30 pups have been born in the main Hawaiian Islands, soundly beating the previous record of 21 pups in 2013. Eight of this year’s pups were born to first time moms, including our most recent pup born to new mom R8HE in Maui Nui (Maui County). We know some folks get really excited about new seal pups and want to go see them in person - we do too! But too many visitors can unintentionally disrupt resting and nursing. That’s why we usually refrain from publicizing specific pup locations and we ask that you do the same. By not specifying pup locations in our social media posts, we can help keep disturbance to a minimum.
If you come across a Hawaiian monk seal mom and pup, please stay quiet and enjoy them from a distance, remaining behind any signs or barriers that might be present. If no sign or volunteer is present, please call it in to our hotline at (888) 256-9840.
Rocky's Pupdate From Kauai
Hawaiian monk seal "Rocky" (RH58) arrived on a remote beach on Kauai on Saturday, July 14. On Monday morning, July 16, she was observed with a new pup. Watch the video.
July 14, 2018
Hawaiian monk seal "Rocky" (RH58) arrived on a remote beach on Kauai on Saturday, July 14. On Monday morning, July 16, she was observed with a new pup. Rocky and the pup both appear to be doing well. We have not determined if the pup is male or female at this time.
All photos and videos taken with a NMFS research permit.