Give Seals a Chance: Monk Seal Update

By Léo Azambuja

A few weeks ago a monk seal died at Hale o Lono. NOAA Fisheries Response Coordinator David Schofield came to Molokai, and retrieve samples from the corpse. Many on Molokai have inquired why the endangered marine mammal died.

Schofield said he is still waiting for autopsy results. The cause of death was not obvious, since the animal looked healthy and there were no signs of trauma, according to him. Schofield was worried that the seal’s death may have been caused by a disease.

“It’s alarming because you don’t expect an animal that just ate to die,” Schofield said, explaining that the seal had a full stomach at the time of its death.

The seal could also have been caught in a net an drowned, but this scenario is unlikely, since the corpse was found in good condition on the shore.

NOAA spokeswoman Wende Goo said the cause of death may remain unknown for months, because the autopsy is done elsewhere in the mainland.

On a separate note, the Dispatch had published a story about a West End resident who saw an apparently sick seal and dragged it by its flippers to the ocean. Schofield said the seal has been sighted, and is doing fine. “But grabbing a seal by its flippers is not the right thing to do,” he said. “The seal was probably resting.”

Schofield urged residents to call (888) 256-9840 if they find an injured or dead seal. If information is gathered, please call NOAA at (808) 220-7802. However, no one should get closer than 100 feet to the seals, as it could disturb them. The best ways to get information are by using binoculars or a camera zoom-lens.

Finally, NOAA Fisheries will conduct a statewide monk seal count on Saturday, April 19. It will last from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is the third time NOAA does the count, and everyone is invited to participate as volunteers. Schofield said he will provide training for those who are interested, and that they should contact him at (808) 944-2269.


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