Latest Monk Seal Death Raises Reward to $40,000
By Wendy Osher
Another suspicious monk seal death was reported last week, involving a three-year old male monk seal found dead on a northeast Kaua‘i beach on Sunday, April 22.
It is the latest in a series of suspicious monk seal deaths that began in November 2011 on Molokai.
The reward amount for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the deaths has increased to $40,000, or $10,000 per confirmed incident.
The first case under the new reward program and tip line was announced in January and involved three monk seal deaths on Moloka‘i. A fourth monk seal was later found dead on Kaua‘i.
These cases, along with the newest reported death on Kaua‘i, remain under investigation. Anyone with information about these cases is asked to call the confidential reward tip line at 1-855-DLNR-TIP.
Community groups have rallied in recent months to increase education about the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal, Hawaii’s official state marine mammal; and to help promote co-existence with this critical endangered species in Hawaiian waters.
“Traditional Hawaiian values taught us the importance of sharing and living together sustainability; we simply want people to remember and embrace our traditional values when it comes to how we treat and behave towards the monk seals,” explained Trisha Kehaulani Watson, a member of the Coalition.
Population estimates have placed Hawaiian monk seals at less than 1,100. Legislative protection has increased penalties for harassment of monk seals, resulting in a Class C felony of up to 5 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.
DLNR Chair, William Aila, Jr. concurs that monk seals are a vital part of Hawaii’s marine and cultural environment. “We must all come together to share the message that harm to seals is unacceptable and that humans and seals must learn to co-exist peacefully together. Only then can there be hope for the future of the monk seal, including a new pup just born this week on Kaua‘i.”
The Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i and the Center for Biological Diversity joined in posting the reward.
“We thank the HSUS for their continued sponsorship of this program, which helps protect Hawaii’s precious wildlife,” said Randy Awo, DOCARE chief.