JUNE l, 2000
This is the first newsletter from Kaua`i Monk Seal Watch Program. It has been
envisioned by many people for a long time: Stephanie Butler (North shore volunteer
coordinator), Donna Lee (West side volunteer coordinator), Melissa Shaw (Marine
veterinarian), Don Heacock (DLNR - Kaua`i), Thea Johanos-Kam (NMFS, NOAA), and
myself, as islandwide volunteer coordinator and liason. The purpose of the newsletters
are to educate, provide interesting facts about monk seals, and to let you know
what is happening on Kaua`i with the volunteer program.
Kaua`i is the only main island to report a birth this year, and weve had two reports and confirmations. Don Heacock has reported a new monk seal pup born on Mothers Day on a north shore beach. Another pup was born on the NaPali Coast about a month ago but has since disappeared.
There was a recent editorial in the Garden Island newspaper from a concerned citizen, Arius Hopman, about much needed protection of the monk seals in the Salt Pond area on the west side of the island. A letter from him, plus pictures of vehicles parked very close to the seals on the beach, have been forwarded to certain authorities in hopes of getting some response.
On April 2l, biologists removed a large hook embedded deeply in the mouth of an adult female monk seal on Haena Beach. The tuna hook was attached to a slider rig, typically used by recreational fishermen to catch ulua from shore. The seal was reported with a hook in her mouth by local residents the morning before. Removal of the hook was successfully coordinated by NMFS biologists, assisted by biologists from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Kaua`i Monk Seal Watch Program, and residents of Haena. The hooked seal was tagged, so we know something of her history. She was born at Midway Atoll in l992 and remained there for five years. She later swam to Laysan, was seen there in l998-99 and was seen twice on Moloka`i this March before showing up on Kaua`i with the hook. She is the first seal recorded to have traveled all the way from Midway to the main islands.
Last month an older female hauled up at Kiahuna Plantation on the south shore with a large bite of some kind on its shoulder. After carefully monitoring it for several days, it was decided that it would heal on its own and sure enough, the wound is now almost totally healed and will leave only a small scar, which is good for identifying purposes.
NMFS will conduct its first complete aerial monk seal survey of the main Hawaiian Islands the week of June 5-9. The islands of Kaua`i and Ni`ihau will be surveyed on June 8 or 9.
The 200 field camps are now established at all the main monk seal breeding areas. NMFS biologists will remain at these camps until at least the end of July, collecting data, tagging pups, removing dangerous debris, and disentangling seals. This year to date, at least l0l pups have been born in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands(at French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Reef, Midway Atoll, and Kure Atoll). Midway Atoll has a new record of l4 pups born (the highest previous record was l2, born last year).
Stephanie Butler will create a prototype monk seal rack card, using photos and text from the new monk seal poster with frequently asked questions. These cards could be placed in racks in tourist areas, etc., and also handed out to interested beach goers at monk seal haulout sites.
An interesting story told to me by a security guard at the Hyatt Hotel on the south shore ..
A monk seal had hauled out on the beach there and the security had all the signs in place to protect it from people getting too close. Along came a couple with a large Doberman that headed straight for the seal. Several people were screaming for the couple to keep the dog away from the seal. The dog was already upon the seal when suddenly the seal reared its head, grabbed the dog by the neck, and threw it out in the ocean, with much yelping on the dogs part. Needless to say, everyone was very relieved that the seal escaped unhurt.
A new monk seal poster is now available in two sizes. These posters will be displayed in public areas such as beach parks, airports, hotels, libraries, and schools. Although distribution is just beginning, the poster is already in use on Kaua`i, Moloka`i, O`ahu, and Midway Atoll.
With the help of my husband, Frank and the lifeguard, Roy, there now stands a beautiful sturdy base for the new poster at Po`ipu Beach. It reads, Let Sleeping Seals Lie, with a lovely picture, plus info and frequently asked questions and answers. Be sure to see it whenever you are in the area. We estimate that over l00 people a day stop and read it. Anyone interested in this volunteer program could contact me. Even if you cannot go to a beach to check on the seals, and want to be involved with other fun things, such as networking, education, letters to the newspapers, there is always a need for talents of any kind. I see it mainly as a way to protect these gentle creatures and bring more public awareness to one of our most precious resources.
Kaua`i Monk Seal Watch Program Volunteer Coordinator and Liaison
Back to Newsletter main page