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Spear Removed from Hawaiian Monk Seal

A Hawaiian monk seal injured by a spear was returned to the ocean thanks to a quick response and medical intervention by rescuers.

February 6, 2013

Just days after the rescue of RL12, another young Hawaiian monk seal was found in major distress on the Island of Hawaii not far away from the future home of our Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kailua-Kona. Because there was no medical facility nearby, rescuers had no choice but to fly him to Oahu for medical treatment. Sadly, the seal died. During the necropsy, officials learned the cause of death: he had ingested a fishing hook. NOAA Officials went on to explain to local media that if they had been notified sooner of the hooking, this seal's life might have been saved.

The toll-free, 24/7 reporting hotline for all fishery interactions and other marine mammal incidents is 1-888-256-9840. DLNR and NOAA Fisheries urge all fishermen and other ocean users to write down this hotline and/or save it in their mobile phones for timely use whenever a seal is hooked or entangled.

A second Hawaiian monk seal was found hooked as well. Rescuers were able to remove the object and examine the seal. Since there were no injuries, they were able to release him back to the ocean the same day.

Read the press release:

Related news article:

January 31, 2013

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal, named RL12, was often observed foraging by NOAA officials on Rabbit Island near Oahu. But on January 29, she was seen resting on a beach with a three-pronged spear embedded in the middle of her forehead just above her eyes. Field responders from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Service, Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program and The Marine Mammal Center were immediately dispatched to reach RL12  and remove the foreign object from her head. This is the second time in two months that our veterinary team has been instrumental in ensuring the survival of the most endangered seal in the US.

Dr. Michelle Barbieri, a veterinarian for The Marine Mammal Center and NOAA, along with two other trained rescuers, took a jet ski to the island to help the seal. RL12 was found sleeping on the beach, so the team was able to successfully restrain her within minutes. They carefully removed the spear, did a quick examination, and satisfied that there were no other injuries or medical issues, released her. She immediately swam away.

The spear (and the shaft which was found nearby) was turned over to NOAA's Office for Law Enforcement and the state of Hawaii's Department of Conservation and Resource Enforcement for investigation.

"NOAA and State of Hawaii officials will draw on partnerships with spearfishing clubs and other fishing groups to better understand how and why these types of incidents might occur and to disseminate guidelines aimed at reducing all types of fishery interactions with monk seals," said Jeff Walters, Marine Mammal Branch Chief, NOAA, NMFS.

Hawaiian monk seals are the most endangered seal in U.S. waters with a declining population of about 1,100. The Marine Mammal Center is actively involved in helping to conserve this species and recently broke ground on a Hawaiian monk seal hospital located on the Big Island in Kona to provide the critical care needed to save this species.

Help save Hawaiian monk seals today!

Click Save Hawaiian Monk Seals to go back to that page.


To report this or other Hawaiian monk seal crimes, contact:
(888) 256-9840

Click here for NOAA reporting guidelines in Hawaii

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