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Investigations Continue in Monk Seal Deaths

Four Hawaiian monk seals have been found dead in the state since mid-November – and three of those have been on Molokai.

Three of the four deaths have been deemed of suspicious causes by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials after completing necropsies, or animal autopsies. The first death occurred on Molokai in mid-November, when an adult male seal’s body was discovered on the southwest shore.

The second, a young female, was also found dead on the island’s southwest shore, late last month. Human interaction is suspected in both cases, according to NOAA Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator Jeff Walters. He said further details are being withheld during the ongoing investigations.

A young male Hawaiian monk seal was then found dead several days later on Molokai’s west coastline. Evidence was inconclusive in saying determining whether or not the third death was suspicious but tissue samples are being tested further.

All seals found dead on Molokai had been born in Kalaupapa, and one was second generation offspring, whose mother was also born in Kalaupapa.

A fourth death on Kauai last Tuesday is also believed suspicious by officials.

Rising Tensions
Some on Molokai, particularly local fishermen, blame monk seals for depleting fish populations, and tensions have been rising over the past several years as the monk seal population in the Main Hawaiian Islands has been slowly increasing.

Molokai activist Walter Ritte has taken a strong stand in supporting the critically endangered species. In a statement released last month, he emphasized Hawaiian monk seals are native to the area, and need to be treated with respect.

“The death of these Hawaiian Monk Seals on Molokai is an indication of a dangerous trend that must be stopped,” he said. “The seals are now the easy targets of blame for the many ills of our depleting fisheries. [But] these seals are not only Hawaiian, but have been here longer than the Hawaiians.”

Nearly Extinct
Walters said the recent rate of deaths is not sustainable if the species is to survive. “Losing four like this is not a good thing, especially if three are not natural deaths,” he said.

With fewer than 1100 monk seals surviving today, each individual is important to saving the population, said the Department of Land and Natural Resource (DLNR)’s Elia Herman. The population is already declining statewide at a rate of 4 percent per year – a rate at which scientists predict the species could disappear in 50 to 100 years.

Harassing or killing a Hawaiian monk seal is against state and federal law, with penalties of up to five years imprisonment and up to $50,000.

Herman said a reward to obtain tips on the causes of the deaths might be set this week. Anyone with related information is asked to call NOAA’s hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at (808) 873-3990.


12 Responses to “Investigations Continue in Monk Seal Deaths”

  1. PaulT says:

    My wife and I stayed at the south end of Papohaku beach at the end of September and a pair of dead Monk Seals showed up on the beach after some tough looking characters and their pit bulls spent the day on the rocks at the south end of the beach. Is there documentation of seal deaths in late September/early October?
    Paul T

  2. HMSRP says:

    Aloha Paul-
    If you have any more specific info or photos of the seals that would be great. You can send any information you might have to: PIFSC.monksealsighting@noaa.gov
    Thank you for the information.

  3. PaulT says:

    I’m afraid I was actively trying not to photogragh the dead seals on the beach but with such an open expanse and such large and beautiful animals you could see them from about a mile away. They were together on the beach at the south end of Papohaku for about 24 to 36 hours before they disappeared and the date would have been between September 1st and the 14th. I know there were other people who saw them there at that time but I don’t know if they were locals or tourists. I would gladly share what little info I have and would hope anyone else who saw anything would also speak up. Would Molokai want to be known for letting some folks slaughter the last of a beautiful sacred species for a few fish?

  4. kalaniua ritte says:

    if people want to save the seal they should stop commercial fishing in the north west h’wn islands.again its the rich causing the problems and the poor taking the blame!

  5. Molokaiwahine says:

    When MAN kills any animal for excitement or intentional it is wrong. And if you believe in God then you know he has the last say and our time on earth is limited. We should be light for Jesus on earth

  6. Ka Lani Ali'i says:

    Don’t really know if there actually Native to hawaii. There is no proof of this in Kanaka Maoli Culture show me a petroglyph, song, hula,legend, and in geneology show me what ohana lineage that has it as there Amakua the Kanaka had all animal forms as amakua why is this one not included I have 6 lines of Kanaka Maoli Blood and 2 Native American Indian and not one reunion I have been to yet for geneology mentions a seal as Amakua besides the regular Moo,Mano,Honu,Ula etc…not even in Kanaka carving or art shows it… It seems odd to me that they are Native to Hawaii what suggest that?…Anyway the numbers have been decreasing and declining for a number of years without any inteference from Molokai seems to me like it was destined to be by causes of mother nature. I read an article not long ago where the same people here giving the rewards out put in a permit to kill a bull Monk seal in the northwestern hawaiian islands because it was hurting other female monk seals is this contradiction to your law and exsistence… Or are you playing GOD seems like you guys have interfeared in a natural Monk seal behavior in its natural habitat and as you see it will make a decision based on what you think is best Human wise for the monk seal with an educated scientific guess. Monk seals have rights to and your best solution was to kill it COTRADICTION at its best. So are you really concerned about the monk seal?. If it can’t do it naturally on its own, then it was destined for them to go extinct just like the dinosaurs its a part of evolution your scientist you know. So I ask you this did the Monk seal go up to the scientist and say take me to Molokai? or in your human thought you decided for it?…God made all things of nature according to there work… If the Monk seal felt like comming to Molokai God gave it fins and the ability and breath to swim here on its own accord and will in its own mind. You guys claim Nature and natural but intefere in every instance. If the seal came to Molokai naturally on its own accord it would have been better excepted by all. Instead you gave it a boat ride and a tag animal cruelty and droped them into a foriegn enviorment after human contact and expect them to live in the wild when you feed and nutured it they lost there natural instinct to survive in the ocean and wild, an instinct given by GOD for there survival. If there numbers naturally came back and they made there way to Molokai maybe then it would show some form of Indeginous relations till then give me the proof… I think you guys are rushing to bring it here for the tourisim Industry so tourist can see them on beaches and boat rides to make money. Anything for the almighty dollar. I see no aloha for the seal just what you can benifit from it. Go ask the monk seal locked up in the oahu aquairium now that’s animal cruelty at its best lets take it out of its natural habitat and lock this animal up for life so we can show it to people…let me throw you in its habitat at the zoo or aquarium for a life time and see how you like it just for a buck… STOP PLAYING GOD…..

  7. halemalu says:

    you shine like a light and a voice of peace and wisdom around this sad, hateful, confused world. i hope some day i can hug you. blessings to you!

  8. Ka Lani Ali'i says:

    How do you know if a man is doing it? There is no proof… What if there is a bull monk seal that they haven’t tagged running around molokai and killing the other seals for territory or something…just like the one in the North western Hawaiian Islands…have you performed an operation on them? and when a man kills another man in war for a political ends to a means that’s protecting your freedom its right???…or thats senseless too…

  9. Molokaiwahine says:

    From the neocropsy comfirms that the seals were killed by a humanbeings.
    The bottem line is We as humans are the ones who are destroying our world and the Lord hopefuly will come soon. All the hate, angry, racism and whatever will come to end. I pray everyday that Jesus will come and will end the human race. We as humans have killed, disrespected life on this earth and I hope he comes soon….

  10. Ka Lani Ali'i says:

    Evidence was inconclusive and humans are suspected is what it says…Three of the four deaths have been deemed of suspicious causes…

    Can I please have a definition….Um…can you use it in a sentence…um…Inconclusive yeah ok now I got it

  11. Molokaiwahine says:

    Have a Blessed day with Jesus

  12. Ka Lani Ali'i says:

    All day everyday that’s who shows me the way…aloha

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