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Monk seal recovering after hooking incident

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    Monk seal R5AY is seen on Sunset Beach on Nov. 17, before rescuers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries brought the animal to the Waikiki Aquarium.
    The monk seal R5AY recovers from a hooking injury in a tank at Waikiki Aquarium. NOAA photo used by permission.

A monk seal tha nearly died from an injury caused by a fishing hook is recovering at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Federal fisheries officials rescued the monk seal, known by her tags as R5AY, on Sunset Beach on Nov. 17, after an extensive search.

The seal had been seen with the hook in its mouth on Nov. 14

“She was on her last leg,” said Charles L. Littnan, lead scientist for the federal Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program.

The animal was weak, severely emaciated, and covered in algae. She had a large swelling within and around her mouth and an ulua hook lodged in her cheek, officials said.

Veterinary surgeons removed the hook and part of the seal’s tongue.

She apparently had the hook in her mouth for at least three weeks, Littnan said.

But the seal is now recovering and is eating live and dead fish.

Littnan and state land board Chairman William Aila held a news media conference Monday to encourage people to report any monk seal that is skinny or appears malnourished or has a  physical problem.

“Early reporting gives monk seals an increased chance of survival,” Aila said.

The agencies also have guidelines for fishermen on how to report injured seals and reduce the impact on seals from fishing.

Since the beginning of the year, NOAA Fisheries, DLNR, and partners have responded to 14 seal hooking incidents involving 11 individual Hawaiian monk seals.

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