State Warns of Increase in Harmful Monk Seal Hookings and Feedings

October 26, 2020, 3:45 PM HST · Updated October 26, 3:45 PM
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Don’t Feed the Seals sign. Photo Courtesy: DNLR’s Division of Aquatic Resources

The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources is concerned about a recent increase in harmful interactions between fishermen and monk seals. This year, 24 monk seal hookings already have been reported on O’ahu.

Harmful interactions with seals can be decreased by following the Fishing Around Seals and Turtles (FAST) guidelines. They include: always keeping your eyes on your gear; avoiding casting to areas where monk seals are observed; and using barbless circle hooks. These steps will help decrease the instances of hooking seals which can injure the animals, destroy fishing gear and possibly lead to harm to the fisher. 

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Intentionally feeding seals or attempting to feed seals also is an issue — and prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. On O’ahu’s Leeward Coast, where large nearshore schools of halalu (juvenile akule) have attracted numerous monk seals, fishermen have been seen feeding halalu to nearby seals.

While the fishermens’ intentions may be good, this is dangerous to both humans and the seals. In almost all cases, the seals will learn to associate people with food and increasingly poach off fishers, who will lose their catch. It also leads to even more interactions and possible seal injuries. Feeding seals also adversely effects their ability to survive as wild animals,. 

If you observe any person intentionally feeding monk seals, please call The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Hotline at 1-888-256-9840. Never attempt to enter the water with a monk seal, even to “free it” from gear it may have ingested. Instead, call the Hotline, Division of Aquatic Resources or NOAA employees who will respond as soon as possible. 

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