E ho`olaulima makou I malama `ilio o ke kai
"We must cooperate to take care of our monk seals."
KAUA`I MONK SEAL WATCH PROGRAM
Our mission is to sustain and enhance Hawaiian Monk Seals and their habitat by: providing management and monitoring, community participation, promoting environmental education, and cultural awareness.
KMSWP is funded entirely by donation. We operate as a completely volunteer organization. Contributors can take pride in the fact that one hundred percent of their money goes directly into our projects, our website, and the day-to-day work protecting Hawaiian Monk Seals on Kaua`i. Mahalo for supporting KMSWP.
We have developed programs for our local schools and the tourism industry. The school program emphasizes education. Since tourists are here for brief periods, those efforts are geared toward awareness of the seals' situation. Both projects focus directly on the importance of human behavior in seal survival.
TRANSLATION:We attempt to respond to any HMS haulouts we are aware of, particularly those that have significant potential for seal/human interaction. The primary purpose is to establish a yellow rope and signage perimeter. The goals are to allow the seal proper space to rest without disturbance, and to prevent humans from potential injury.
Mostly, we talk --- whenever, wherever we are asked to provide information or share our knowledge and experience. Schools, hotels, media --- all are great venues for passing on knowledge about the HMS and how to avoid disturbing them. At the beach, we constantly answer questions from visitors and residents. Whenever people understand the "why?" factor, the guidelines for viewing the seals make perfect sense to them.
Anytime we can identify a seal by tags, markings, or scars, we pass that information on to our coordinator. A combination of beach counts, air sightings, and specifically identified seals allows experts to estimate population.
Whenever a seal is spotted on our beaches by a KMSWP member, we try to pass on any information (identity, unusual behavior, location, etc.) to the Kaua`i HMS coordinator, or our volunteer coordinator.
If anyone sees or hears of a seal caught in debris (i.e. discarded netting, rope, plastic trash), we try to contact governmental authorities and get to the area as soon as possible to see what can be done.
Anytime we see injuries (i.e. wounds from sharks or boat propellers), we try to follow up. If the seal's injury appears to be healing and the animal is not in distress, we record the information. If the situation is urgent, we contact help immediately.
NOTE: All pertinent information from KMSWP regarding seals is sent to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
This is best explained by the events of a previous summer. On July 6, 2000, an HMS pup was born at Po`ipu Beach Park, the first ever on a highly-used public beach. For 45 days, KMSWP members manned two-hour shifts from 6a.m. to 8p.m. Marine biologists from NMFS spent the night in tents on site. Barricades had been placed about 150 feet in all directions from the seals. Volunteers kept watch on the perimeter, moved it to accommodate seal movement, and monitored the seals. They also answered constant questions from the crowd, kept noise at a minimum, and enforced a ban on flash photography during evening hours.
Samples from the watch log:
Thursday, July 13, 2000
0830-0930 Mom lets baby explore around edges of keiki pool. But when pup gets approximately 75 to 100 feet away, mom barks and pup quickly returns to mom's side. Reports of seals on beaches at Hyatt and Sheraton.
1015 Pup swims around, quite frisky. Swims back and forth to sleeping mom, nudges her. Finally, mom wakes up after about 15 minutes and both swim together.
1030 Mom and pup move closer to beach and baby nurses for about 10 minutes
1115 Male seal approaches from Sheraton beach area. He crosses under the red fence on the sandbar, and swims across the water near the mom and pup, Mom raises her head, barks once, and the male swims away. Mom and baby sleep.
1215 Close entire beach. Speak with people about protecting mom and pup from male seal. All people very understanding.
Friday, July 14, 2000
0551 Mom and pup in water.
0650 Male jogger jumps fence and starts running in protected area. He is stopped, and exits.
1020-1100 Mom and pup venture out of keiki pool into larger bay and swim and play. Pup takes lead and guides them out along edge. Then mom bellows and pup returns to her. They return to keiki pool, emerge from water to nurse and rest.
Sunday, July 16, 2000
1600-1800 Pup nurses 1645 until about 1700. Rest of the time pup is very active and on the move around mom. Most of the time pup tries to feed, but mom is doing the "on her back" thing. Lots of excitement from visitors. Seems everyone is thrilled and they thoroughly enjoy having binocs to look through. Great fun.
Thursday, July 22, 2000
1000-1200 Pup swims for about 15 minutes. Male seal tries to cross sand spit toward mom and pup but fence blocks his way.
1200-1400 Mom and pup move into rocky area and then into surf. Mom and pup haul out back on beach. Pup moves to fence line and tries to get through but can't.
2015 Pup nibbles on loose yellow "caution" ribbon hanging from one of the standards holding the orange fence-netting.
Three weeks after the Po`ipu Beach birth, another pup was born less than two miles away at Maha`ulepu Beach. A similar operation immediately geared up, though on a smaller scale, as beach traffic there is about 10% of that at Po`ipu. The watches ran in tandem for the three weeks that overlapped, and Maha`ulepu continued into September. Both pups were weaned around their forty-second day, and both mother seals left on day forty-five. Several volunteers assisted teams of marine biologists in translocation of both pups to more remote, and thus safer, areas of Kaua`i.