State and federal officials are reminding the public not to feed Hawaiian monk seals after several of the critically endangered species were recently spotted near a bay on the Leeward side looking for food.
The state Division of Aquatic Resources reported that some anglers provided the seals with the scraps of fish that a monk seal tried to take off a hook and is relaying the message to fishermen who frequent the small bay next to the Kahe Power Plant in Waianae.
NOAA Fisheries posted a sign warning against feeding the seals at the Kahe fishing area and is stepping up its outreach to fishermen.
“Seals are a lot like dogs,” said Angela Amlin, Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. “If you feed them once, they’ll come back for more. So the less you can interact with the seal, the less it receives rewards in the form of food or interaction, the better. Seals that become habituated to humans can see them both as sources of food and entertainment and when they get large, this can become quite dangerous.”
Amlin also said that a seal that gets food from one fisherman will then try to poach from other hook and line fishermen or spear fishermen, impacting everyone’s fishing experience
“Fishermen can help each other by not feeding seals,” she said.
Feeding, or attempting to feed a seal or any wild marine mammal is also prohibited under federal law.
If a seal enters an area where one is fishing, NOAA Fisheries recommends taking a short break.
“Hopefully the seal gets bored and moves on,” said Amlin. “If the seal does get your bait or part of a catch, don’t throw it back into the water as that becomes an incentive for a seal to keep coming back.”
The public is encouraged to call NOAA’s hotline if a monk seal is spotted while fishing, seen taking bait or catch or is possibly hooked at 1-888-256-9840.