Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 76° Today's Paper


Top News

NOAA: Male Hawaiian monk seal moved after run-ins with divers

COURTESY THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER
                                Hawaiian monk seal RL72 relaxes on a Hawaii island beach. NOAA decided to move RL72 from Hawaii island to Kamole, or Laysan Island, at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument after too many interactions with divers.
1/1
Swipe or click to see more

COURTESY THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER

Hawaiian monk seal RL72 relaxes on a Hawaii island beach. NOAA decided to move RL72 from Hawaii island to Kamole, or Laysan Island, at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument after too many interactions with divers.

A Hawaiian monk seal that had allegedly been chasing after divers off the west coast of Hawaii island has been moved to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Federal officials determined that the move was best for RL72 — a 5-year-old male monk seal — after too many encounters with humans in which he reportedly approached divers and nipped their fins and equipment in the Makoko Bay Area.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said “a pattern of escalating underwater interactions with divers and snorkelers off the west coast of Hawaii island” prompted the move.

This included a report of an incident in which RL72 bit a diver on the head which resulted in a non-serious injury. Based on NOAA’s review of the footage, the bite was not provoked by the diver.

In another instance, RL72 reportedly held a daytime diver underwater, and in another incident, bit a snorkeler on the back, causing a puncture wound.

NOAA said after a “careful and thorough risk assessment,” the agency decided a move was necessary for RL72’s long-term welfare and for the public’s safety.

With help from The Marine Mammal Center, RL72 was collected and departed with a previously scheduled vessel making a two-day journey to Papahanaumokuakea.

The seal is to be released on Laysan Island, or Kamole, home to an estimated population of more than 200 Hawaiian monk seals.

“We believe that in this remote location — away from people and surrounded by many more monk seals than at Hawaii Island — RL72 has the greatest chance at returning to normal wild seal behaviors,” said NOAA in a blog post.

NOAA reminds the public to keep a distance and not to interact with the endangered seals; to move away if a seal approaches; and to exit the water if pursued by a seal. NOAA also recommends maintaining a distance of 50 feet from monk seals — and 150 feet from monk seal moms and pups — on land or in the water.

Monk seal sightings and reports of injured marine mammals can be reported to NOAA’s hotline at 888-256-9840.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.