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Monk seal pup born at Mokulua islet; state suspends kayak permits

COURTESY DLNR
                                Kayak landings are temporarily suspended at Mokului Nui while monk seal mom Wailea and pup are nursing. Officials put the restriction in place Friday when the birth of the pup was confirmed.
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COURTESY DLNR

Kayak landings are temporarily suspended at Mokului Nui while monk seal mom Wailea and pup are nursing. Officials put the restriction in place Friday when the birth of the pup was confirmed.

State officials say a Hawaiian monk seal pup has been born on Mokulua Nui, one of the islets off of Lanikai, prompting a suspension of commercial landing permits.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said the pup’s birth was confirmed on Friday, which is when its Division of Forestry and Wildlife suspended all Mokulua islet commercial landing permits. Landing on the islet’s shores is prohibited while mom and pup are nursing for the next few weeks.

“We are mindful and empathetic to the impact this has on kayak companies and recreators at the beginning of the busy summer tourist season,” said DOFAW Administrator David Smith in a statement. “However, having seals in very close proximity to people can create safety issues for both people and animals. We appreciate everyone’s patience, while this mother seal nurses her pup and prepares it to wean in five to seven weeks.”

The twin Mokulua islets are state wildlife sanctuaries. Moku Iki, the islet on the right, has always been off-limits to the public while the larger one on the left, Mokulua Nui, is a popular destination for kayakers.

The state, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Hawaii Marine Animal Response are working together to inform people that kayaks coming and going from the islet will likely disturb the monk seal mom, Wailea, and her pup.

This could be considered a “take,” or harassment of a protected species, DLNR said, which is prohibited by state and federal laws. Staff and volunteers stationed on the islet will record all human activities during the seals’ presence.

DLNR said the births of 11 monk seals on Oahu this year have created unique challenges in protecting both seals and people.

On May 1, Kaiwi was found with a newborn pup at Kaimana Beach. Her pup, now named Pa‘aki, was relocated to a more remote shoreline after her recent weaning.

Last week, Rocky gave birth to a pup at Sand Island State Recreation Area, the first recorded monk seal birth for that shoreline. Officials are concerned due to the crowds of campers and threats from feral cats and unleashed dogs in the area. Dogs are not permitted at the park.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered seal species in the world, with only an estimated 1,600 remaining in the wild.

Signs with NOAA’s seal resting area guidelines are posted at Moku Nui, with additional signs prohibiting beach landings to be placed this week. No one should move or deface any signs, DLNR said.

NOAA recommends maintaining a distance of at least 150 feet from mom-and-pup monk seals both in water and on land.

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