Death of a monk seal on Kaua'i under investigation

Kaua‘i death makes four dead seals since November

LIHU‘E, KAUA‘I – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in cooperation with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, is investigating the suspicious death of a Hawaiian

monk seal on the Northeast coast of Kaua‘i.

"This was not how I hoped the New Year would start." said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chairperson. "Monk seals are a vital part of Hawai‘i's marine ecosystems. The intentional killing of any monk seal is not only illegal, it is inexcusable environmentally and culturally," he said.

This follows the death of three monk seals on Moloka‘i in recent weeks. Two of these seals died under suspicious circumstances. The cause of death for the third seal is still unknown; however, samples were

taken for further analysis.

The deaths of the monk seals on Moloka‘i prompted a response from long time community leader Walter Ritte, "This is a dangerous trend that must be stopped. How we treat the seals is how we can be expected to be treated as Hawaiians in Hawai‘i," he said.

Monk seals are endemic to Hawai‘i; they are a native species found nowhere else in the world. The species is critically endangered.

In June 2010, the Legislature passed Act 165*, specifically to increase penalties for taking (which is defined to include harassing or killing) a monk seal. It's a Class C felony (up to 5 years imprisonment). Someone convicted under this law could face a fine of up to $50,000. It is also against federal law to kill or harm a Hawaiian monk seal.

Anyone having information related to these deaths should call the NOAA OLE hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at (808) 873-3990 or 643-DLNR.

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