Maui News

Monk seal released after recovery from surgery to remove a large fishing hook

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Hawaiian monk seal RL72 is released back into the wild on April 21, 2022, by volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona, Ke Kai Ola. The juvenile male seal underwent a successful surgery to remove a hook during treatment after his rescue on Maui. Credit: © The Marine Mammal Center/Carmelita Villalobos via NOAA Fisheries

A juvenile monk seal found on Maui‘s Oneloa Beach in Kapalua last month, was released after undergoing surgery to remove an ingested fishing hook. 

The animal, known as RL72, was transported to the Marine Mammal Center’s Hawaiian monk seal hospital on Hawaiʻi Island, where it spent two weeks recovering. 

NOAA Fisheries evaluated the seal, and the animal was released on April 21, after a full recovery from the challenging surgery.  

Trained response volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital and visitor center in Kailua-Kona, Ke Kai Ola, release Hawaiian monk seal RL72 back to the ocean on April 21, 2022. Credit: © The Marine Mammal Center/Photo by Carmelita Villalobos via NOAA Fisheries

“Our team is thrilled to have returned RL72 to his ocean home after a full recovery from a challenging surgery,” said Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, the Center’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation veterinarian. “Ingested fishing hooks can have potentially life-threatening implications.”

She added that once RL72 was released on the beach, the seal headed straight for the water and swam off.

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The Center will continue to monitor RL72’s health and activities with the help of a temporary satellite tag and bleach mark the seal received before release.

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The animal has been known to frequent both Maui and Hawai‘i Island. 

To help authorities monitor RL72 and other endangered Hawaiian monk seals, reports of sightings can be made to the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline: 888-256-9840. RL72 can be identified by rear flipper tags labeled “L72” and “L73,” or by the letters “HI” temporarily bleached on his left side.

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