News and Events

OCTOBER 2020 “THATʻS THE SEAL-IEST THING IʻVE EVER HEARD” – NOAA HAWAIIAN MONK SEAL RESEARCH PROGRAM

Hanauma Talks Seminars

Due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, all Thursday Evening Seminars (till further notice) can be viewed ONLINE (Hanauma Talks pre-recorded presentations)

** Please STAY HOME and KEEP HEALTHY!

Where: Comfort of your own home, at your leisure
When: Thursday
Time: 6:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.
Phone: (808) 397-5840 or Email: hbaynews@hawaii.edu

October 1

“The Ins and Outs of Seal Hook Removal” presented by Claudia Cedillo, Veterinary Technician

October 8

“How reduced and degraded island habitat affects the long-term viability of the monk seal population at French Frigate Shoals” presented by Dr. Jason Baker, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

October 15

“Pearl and Hermes Reef: Seal Paradise or Peril?” presented by Hope Ronco, Research/Logistics Technician, JIMAR

Abstract:  Every summer, NOAA deploys seasonal field researchers to five sites within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to study Hawaiian monk seals. Researchers conduct beach counts, document births, deaths, and injuries, tag and measure weaned pups, and mitigate threats to survival. Towards the western end of the Hawaiian archipelago, Pearl and Hermes (PHR) is known for its brilliant blue waters, tiny islets with white sand beaches, and protected lagoon with over 200,000 acres of colorful coral reef habitat. While it may sound like a tropical pinniped paradise, PHR is home to a small subpopulation of endangered Hawaiian monk seals struggling to thrive. The PHR subpopulation has experienced several consecutive years of poor survival from weaning to age one. Combined with inconsistent annual pup production, the estimated number of seals at PHR has been slowly declining. The reasons for these concerning trends are not known, however, there is some indication that aggressive adult males at certain islands within the atoll may play a role. To mitigate aggressive encounters, weaned pups have been translocated from islands with known male aggression to an island with minimal male aggression. We hope to further investigate the role of male aggression as a threat to weaned pups by evaluating how aggression-inferred injuries impact the survival of weaned pups to year one. Further understanding of threats to survival will help to direct mitigation activities to support the recovery of this endangered species.

October 22

“NOAA research ranges land-to-sea to understand risks of toxoplasmosis in Hawaiian Monk Seals” presented by Dr. Stacie Robinson, Research Ecologist

Abstract:  Toxoplasmosis is a top threat to Hawaiian monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands where seal habitat overlaps with large human and cat populations. As the only host in which the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can complete its life cycle, cats are the sole source contaminating the environment with infectious oocysts which can then runoff into the marine environment, threatening marine mammals. To better understand the dynamics of T. gondii infection in Hawaiian monk seals, we examined monk seal toxoplasma cases in relation to cat distribution, rainfall patterns, and other environmental factors on the island of Oahu. We found a strong link between major runoff events and elevated risk of toxoplasmosis in Hawaiian monk seals. This helps us see that the source of this harmful disease comes from our own island landscape, making it our responsibility to mitigate this risk to Hawaii’s native species. We will discuss NOAA’s innovative research to further understand this disease, as well as the challenges of managing complex risks to monk seals.

October 29

“Meet your neighbor island Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Program” presented by Nicole Davis & Jamie Thomton, NOAA Marine Mammal Response Network Island Coordinators

Abstract:  Monk seals in the main Hawaiian islands are known to move around their island and often travel between islands. Hawaiian monk seal pups that are born in the main Hawaiian islands are quickly desensitized to humans. Over time, these seals become accustomed to being around people and will peacefully coexist, sharing the beaches and nearshore waters with Hawaii’s residents and visitors. The combined human population of residents on the islands of Maui and Kauai is less than one quarter of the total population on the island of Oahu. However, when a monk seal pup is born in a popular area or a young impressionable seal interacts with someone, the ability of the seal to eventually coexist with humans relies heavily on the people and the choices people make, even on the neighbor islands with fewer people. The monk seal recovery programs on Kauai and Maui have addressed these challenging human/seal interaction issues in several ways and the lessons learned have helped NOAA managers and scientists in decision-making processes on all the main Hawaiian islands.

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Hawaiian Monk Seal ‘Makoa’ Found Dead On North Shore of Oahu

Recently weaned Hawaiian monk seal RL36, also known as Makoa, died earlier this month on the north shore of Oahu, according to NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries said Makoa was found dead Nov. 9 and officials were unable to identify his cause of death from examination and initial necropsy results. Officials did not identify the beach where he died.

“Tissue samples will be examined further to look for causes of death that could not be detected during the necropsy, and we will provide an update once we receive the results,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement.

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HMSPO Receives 3-year NOAA Grant for REAP Program (Recovery through Education And Preservation)

Press Release, October 1, 2019 – HMSPO would like to take this opportunity to “Toot our own horn” as they say.  This past September, we were officially notified that the grant application we submitted to NOAA in late 2018 was funded for the full amount of nearly $45,000.  Wow!  Mahalo NOAA!toot horn

Written with NOAA’s Main Hawaiian Islands Monk Seal Management Plan for the Island of Oahu in mind, HMSPO proposes to partner with NOAA to help increase the participation of local communities in NOAA’s HMS recovery efforts by focusing on coexistence and cultural sensitivity through education and outreach…at all levels and in all places.  Program efforts incorporate cultural and economic activities that will promote a more healthy and productive coastal ecosystem for the people of Hawaii as well as our Hawaiian Monk Seal Ohana.

REAP’s messaging includes the following strong points.  REAP will promote:
1. A harmonious coexistence between the Hawaiian monk seal and the State’s residents and visitors.
2. The ancestry and heritage of the Hawaiian monk seal and its unique importance in Hawaiian history.
3. The pleasure and richness Hawaiian monk seals bring to us and those that follow.
4. The Hawaiian monk seal and its home in the Hawaiian Islands.

“I’m excited about the possibilities that this grant funding will afford us. To think that we can actually go to the beaches at Ko Olina, Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Royal Hawaiian and the New Otani to educate residents, visitors, staff and lifeguards by sharing the lives of our Hawaiian Monk Seals through our “Talk Story” series will be a dream come true for me and this organization. 

By providing well-needed equipment and materials, REAP will also allow us to expand on HMSPO’s amazingly successful in-classroom Hawaiian Monk Seal education program.  Thanks to the efforts of Kathy Brown our Education Director, this program has reached over 20,000 students in the past 8 years and will continue to grow and evolve as we implement REAP strategies.”  —  Dana Jones, Exec. Director of HMSPO and REAP Project Manager 

Ambassadors Needed!  The backbone and stability of any non-profit organization are its volunteer or as it is defined…those individuals who freely offer their time to a cause.  Moving forward, under the REAP program, we will no longer have volunteers but monk seal Ambassadors or “those individuals who act as a representative or promoter of a specified activity, cause or in this case, species, our beloved Hawaiian Monk Seals!”  Our new Ambassadors will be introduced to monk seals through our “shadow” training program.  They will receive in-depth, on-beach and/or in-classroom monk seal training, paper and on-line materials as well as share experiences that will ensure they are adequately prepared to carry out the mission, goals and objectives of the REAP program.

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Dana at Pohaku Pupping Site

Ambassadors will be an integral and valued member of this exciting adventure and partnership team.  If you want to be involved with a program that will change attitudes, spread appreciation, and embrace values for Hawaii’s #1 natural resource, the Hawaiian Monk Seal, the REAP program is your calling.  You can sign up to assist with a variety of activities including in-classroom education, partnership outreach, beach talk story, website and social media development,  community events and outreach, beach survey for HMS, fundraising, and so much more. Ambassadors will be dedicated to the recovery, protection and preservation of the Hawaiian Monk Seal and therefore dedicated to the success of this project.  If you would like to be an HMSPO Ambassador, please contact Dana Jones at sealonthebeach@gmail.com .

Look for REAP on a beach near you!

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NOAA Reports Death of Young Hawaiian Monk Seal RL44/Nanea

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(Released by NOAA – Last updated by Pacific Islands Regional Office on October 08, 2019) We are saddened to report that recently-weaned female Hawaiian monk seal pup RL44, also known as “Nanea,” was discovered dead on the North Shore of Oʻahu on the morning of September 24, 2019. The circumstances surrounding her death indicate that she did not die of natural causes. The case has been referred to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement for investigation. Anyone with useful information should call (800) 853-1964.
RL44 was born at Paradise Cove, a popular recreational beach, on July 19, 2019. Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response (HMAR) and NOAA Fisheries monitored her during her 6-week nursing period (a normal time frame for nursing monk seal pups). After she weaned, we decided to relocate her to a remote location on the North Shore. Our primary concern was that RL44 have the opportunity to interact with other monk seals, and not people, during an important time in her behavioral development. On the North Shore, she could grow up in the company of several other young, wild monk seals, with less likelihood of human disturbance and, more importantly, not becoming fixated on people.
Management decisions like translocating a seal are carefully weighed in a series of in-depth risk assessments. All decisions are ultimately made with seal and human safety as the primary concern. To reduce the threat of Nanea interacting with discarded fishing gear in her new location, the Hawaiʻi State Division of Aquatic Resources performed a sweep prior to translocation and removed line, nets, hooks, and other debris from the area.
On the day of her translocation everything went smoothly. NOAA staff members evaluated her status at the time of the translocation and had no concerns about her behavior or physical health. In the 4 weeks following translocation, HMAR volunteers closely monitored RL44 and it appeared the goal to get her close to other seals was incredibly successful. She was seen frequently socializing and playing with other seals in the area. Her smooth transition to her new home following the translocation and our hopes for her future were shattered by this tragic loss.
Auntie Nettie Tiffany, the kahu (keeper or custodian) of Lanikūhonua, adjacent to Nanea’s birth site, said that Nanea “… brought exactly what she seemed: peace for our water and our reefs for a period of time, so [they] had time to heal. Nanea brought peace to Milo Beach; that’s why I named her that.”
We will continue to provide updates as we receive information. We will continue engaging in dialogue about threats to monk seals and the challenges associated with managing and mitigating those threats.  Additional Info: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/10/08/hawaii-news/noaa-investigating-death-of-monk-seal-pup-found-on-oahus-north-shore/

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NOAA Reports Death of Juvenile Male Hawaiian Monk Seal RK88/Kuokala

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(Released by NOAA, PIFSC) Earlier this summer, NOAA reported the death of a yearling male Hawaiian monk seal, RK88, also known as Kuokala, after likely drowning in a lay gill net. He was found dead Aug. 21 at Camp Erdman at Kaena Point. Officials said post-mortem test results confirmed that RK88 was healthy at the time of death and there was no evidence of underlying disease or other health concerns. Necropsy results supported drowning in a lay gill net as the cause of death.
Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species protected by federal and state laws. Only an estimated 1,400 remain in the wild — about 1,100 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian islands. NOAA encourages the public report illegal gill nets to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources hotline at (808) 643-DLNR (3567).

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