Archive for the ‘Hawaiian monk seals’ Category

IUCN Spotlight: Hawaiian monk seals

By
August 25th, 2016



Hawaiian monk seal pup Niho‘ole resting on the beach at Papahanaumokuakea. Photo courtesy NOAA. Permit 16632.

Hawaiian monk seal Niho‘ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho`ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.

The NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program recently transported four malnourished Hawaiian monk seals, classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to a monk seal rehabilitation center in Kona, Hawaii.

Among them are prematurely weaned pups, including Niho‘ole, pictured above, as well as YK56, an extremely underweight five-year-old.

"Even though the five-year-old Hawaiian monk seal is older than our typical patients from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, she is much smaller and thinner than the others in her cohort," said Michelle Barbieri, wildlife veterinary medical officer. "She has generally declined in condition over the past two seasons, and appeared to decline even more dramatically this season."

The monk seals underwent physical exams and blood work aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette, and have begun a treatment regime, including oral electrolytes, fish-mash tube feedings and antibiotics. They were shuttled by small boat to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center's monk seal hospital in Kona as part of the final mission of a 24-day research cruise.

NOAA researchers transport Hawaiian monk seals in need of rehabilitation from the Oscar Elton Sette research vessel to a smaller boat that can bring them ashore to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS / NOAA permit 16632.

NOAA researchers transport Hawaiian monk seals in need of rehabilitation from the Oscar Elton Sette research vessel to a smaller boat that can bring them ashore to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.

Teams of researchers, who studied seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which President Barack Obama recently quadrupled in size to nearly 583,000 square miles, were also picked up as part of the program's long-running Assessment and Recovery Camps. As remote as the atolls may be, their shores are full of marine debris, including broken-down pieces of plastic, fishing nets and ropes that the seals often get entangled in.

Since Ke Kai Ola opened two years ago, the hospital has provided another option in the islands for malnourished monk seals that would otherwise perish at Papahanaumokuakea. So far, the hospital has rehabilitated and returned 15 Hawaiian monk seals to the wild, including seven last year.

The Hawaiian monk seal, or neomonachus schauinslandi, is endemic to the Hawaiian islands, meaning found nowhere else, and typically hauls out on beaches to rest during the day. While most live in Papahanaumokuakea, a growing number of pups are being born in the main Hawaiian islands. Their population has been in decline for decades, with only an estimated 1,300 left in the wild.

Hawaiian monk seal Niho`ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho`ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS / NOAA permit 16632.

Hawaiian monk seal Niho‘ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho‘ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.

Interested in learning more about Hawaii's wildlife? The IUCN Forum presents a Knowledge Cafe, entitled "Wet and Wild: Promoting Sustainable and Responsible Ecotourism Experiences with Marine Wildlife" from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3 in Room 311-4 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Meet with representatives from NOAA Fisheries for a discussion on how to balance sustainability with tourism when it comes to whales, dolphins, manta rays and Hawaiian monk seals. Wildlife managers, marine ecotourism operators, cultural practitioners, travel industry representatives, scientists and others welcome. A followup discussion will be held off site from 1 to 5 p.m. at the OHANA Waikiki East Hotel, lobby conference room, 150 Kaiulani Ave. RSVP to Adam Kurtz, adam.kurtz@noaa.gov by Sept. 6.

Related videos:

Hawaiian monk seal pup Niho‘ole playing with plastic debris at Laysan.

 

This public service announcement plays on Hawaiian Airlines' in-flight video:

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Monk seal vaccinations

By
February 22nd, 2016



Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.

Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.

In an effort to further protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, NOAA Fisheries announced the beginning of routine vaccinations of the pinnipeds on Oahu.

The proactive measure, announced Feb. 19, is part of a concerted effort to protect the monk seals in advance against morbillivirus, a disease which could possibly be passed on to them via unvaccinated dogs with distemper or other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and other wayward seal species. There is no disease outbreak affecting Hawaiian monk seals at this time.

Morbillivirus, once introduced into seals, can spread rapidly through respiratory secretions. Outbreaks of morbillivirus have caused the deaths of thousands of dolphins and seals in other parts of the world. Hawaiian monk seals are at risk due to a lack of immunity to morbillivirus and poor genetic diversity.

Initial efforts will focus on Oahu, and continue until October.

The outlook for Hawaiian monk seals, is improving, slowly but surely, according to the latest State of the Seal address in mid-February, with the population now at 1,272 compared to about 1,100. More seal pups were born across the archipelago in the last year compared to previous years. Besides vaccinations, officials are intervening with disentanglement and de-hooking efforts.

2060609-151 CTY MONK SEALS On Thursday, June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. While pups have been born on Rabbit Island for the last three years, this is the first seal born on Oahu in a public area since 1998. NOAA Fisheries Service and Oahu Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team staff and volunteers moniter the site and monk seals. Basically, all I saw was the monk seals just laying on the sand with the baby moving around the mother. The mother didn't move very much. When she did move, the baby also followed her closely. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.

On June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of NOAA's eight selected "Species in the Spotlight" with its own five-year action plan. The other species include the Atlantic Salmon in the Gulf of Maine; central California coast coho; Beluga Whale of Cook inlet; Pacific Leatherback sea turtle; winter-run Chinook of Sacramento River; southern resident Killer Whale and white abalone.

 

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Keiki Kalikimaka Fun

By
December 31st, 2015



As the year 2015 comes to a close, the Green Leaf shares the following Keiki Kalikimaka ornaments that did not make it into the paper, but hold an honorary place in this blog.

Here is a beautiful one-of-a-kind sketch of a nene goose in a Santa hat set against a rainbow, blue sky and marsh with vivid color and details. By Samantha Shiroma, 6, of Ahuimanu Elementary School.

SamanthaShiroma6Ahuimanu

Celebrating Hawaiian monk seals, this Keiki Kalikimaka ornament features a seal in Santa hat in repose on the shoreline by Katerina Im, 10, of Aina Haina Elementary School. Remember, when the seals are resting on the shore, let them sleep.

KaterinaIm10AinaHaina

Another playful sketch of a Hawaiian monk seal (look at those eyes! so realistic) with presents and an elf atop his head. This seal is swimming in the ocean. Mahalo Kira Tobita, 11, of Mililani Middle School. Beautiful drawing.

KiraTobita11MililaniMiddle

Hawaiian monk seal with Santa hat frolicking in the waves. Mahalo to Kristen Ching, 11, Punahou School for this beautiful Keiki Kalikimaka ornament.

KristenChing11Punahou

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Seven monk seals

By
October 16th, 2015



Kilo, the Hawaiian monk seal that NOAA rescued from Niihau, resting on an ohia log at Ke Kai Ola. Photo courtesy The Marine Mammal Center. NOAA Permit No. 18786.

Kilo, the Hawaiian monk seal that NOAA rescued from Niihau, resting on an ohia log at Ke Kai Ola. Photo courtesy The Marine Mammal Center. NOAA Permit No. 18786.

Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian monk seal hospital run by The Marine Mammal Center at NELHA in Kona, is rehabilitating seven seals.

The hospital has successfully rehabilitated and released eight seal patients over the past year, mostly malnourished pups from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, or Papahanaumokuakea, that would otherwise had little chance of survival. The monk seal population at Papahanaumokuakea is in decline primarily due to poor juvenile survival — fewer than one in five survive their first year due to marine debris entanglement, predators and starvation.

Most recently, NOAA returned Pearl and Hermes to the atolls where they were found. Pearl and Hermes were pre-weaned pups that were able to pretty much double their weight at Ke Kai Ola. They were healthy enough for release after just four months.

Fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals remain in Hawaii. While the majority reside in the more remote isles of Papahanaumokuakea, a growing number of pups are being born in the main Hawaiian isles, which is home to between 150 to 200 seals. However, NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research team recently surveyed monk seal breeding sites along the 1,200-mile archipelago and found that 148 pups were born in Papahanaumokuakea this year, up 22 percent from 2014.

While Pearl and Hermes were transported back home (see pics below) aboard the Oscar Elton Sette, the team rescued six new patients — five female pups and one juvenile female — and transported them back to Ke Kai Ola. The team also rescued Kilo, a female monk seal pup found earlier on the island of Niihau. For the first time, all four of the pool pens at Ke Kai Ola are full.

For further depth and details on the journey, read the wonderfully descriptive and humorous Kim Rogers' Malama Monk Seal blog series, which will take you on the trip and get you acquainted with the remote isles and each seal.

"All of our research cruises have seals on them now — either seals headed to Kona for rehabilitation or headed back home fat, healthy and ready for their return to the wild," said NOAA's monk seal research scientist Charles Littnan. "This hospital and our ship-turned-ambulance means new hope for monk seals."

Current monk seal patients at Ke Kai Kola include:

>> Kilo (pictured above). Female pup and the first from the main Hawaiian islands at Ke Kai Ola. Her name means "sassy." She is doing well, and while she's still being tube fed, she's starting to show an interest in whole fish, which is a positive sign.

>> Ama‘ama, a female pup named for the French Frigate Shoals where she was born.

>> Puka, a female pup named for the scar on her neck.

>> Neva, a female pup named for Neva Shoals on Lisianski Island, where she was found.

>> ‘Ena‘ena, a female pup named for a small, silver plant native to Kure Atoll, where she was found.

>> Mahina, a female pup named after the super moon, when she was found.

>> Mo‘o, a one-year-old female named for the mythical Hawaiian lizards and shapeshifting dragons. Most of us will think of geckos.

8. Ama`ama and Puka_The Marine Mamal Center_NOAA Permit 18786

Ama‘ama and Puka resting at Ke Kai Ola. NOAA permit 18786.

7. Six new patients arrive at Ke Kai Ola_The Marine Mammal Center_NOAA Permit 18786

Six new patients arrive at Ke Kai Ola. Two rest by the pool. NOAA Permit 18786.

7. Hermes & Pearl_Credit Julie Steelman_NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1 (1)

Hermes and Pearl have returned to Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Julie Steelman. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1.

Pearl and Hermes in shore pen. NOAA Permit 16632.

Pearl and Hermes in shore pen. NOAA Permit 16632.

 

Pearl and Hermes official release. NOAA Permit 16632

Back home. Pearl and Hermes official release. NOAA Permit 16632

If you see a Hawaiian monk seal resting on the shoreline, give it space and let it rest. The monk seal hotline is 220-7802 (for Oahu) or 1-888-256-9840.

Pearl and Hermes

By
July 6th, 2015



Hermes and Pearl resting by the pool pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona. Hermes and Pearl were rescued as preweaned pups at Pearl and Hermes atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hawaiian monk seal pups Hermes and Pearl resting by the pool pen at Ke Kai Ola, a hospital run by The Marine Mammal Center in Kona. Hermes and Pearl were rescued as pre-weaned pups at Pearl and Hermes atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Happy monk seal Monday.

Here's an update on Pearl and Hermes — two prematurely weaned Hawaiian monk seal pups that NOAA researchers picked up from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the Hi‘ialakai in early June.  The pair, one female and one male, are being rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola in Kona and doing well.

The seals, named Hermes and Pearl after the atoll where they were found, graduated from fish smoothies to eating whole fish last week. The shift to eating fish (thawed-out herring) is a significant step since it eliminates the need for tube feeding.

"Pearl is starting to put on weight," said operations manager Deb Wickham. "Hermes is not putting on as much, but he's basically stable."

Pearl weighs about 35 kilograms, and Hermes weighs about 36 kilograms.

When the monk seal pups first arrived, they were under a month old, with black coats. Their coats are now turning into a silvery sheen. Besides herring, Pearl and Hermes are also enjoying "fishstickles" this summer. They sleep a lot during the day, according to Wickham, but are also playful. They're up early in the morning, and at night.

"When they first arrived, they were suckling on each other," said Wickham. "They play together. They are very bonded."

Pearl, a Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Pearl atoll, peeks out from her pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona where she is being rehabilitated. When she gains enough weight, she will be transported and released back home. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Pearl, a Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Pearl atoll, peeks out from her pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona where she's being rehabilitated. When she gains enough weight, she'll be released back home. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

The pups are expected to stay at Ke Kai Ola, a Hawaiian monk seal hospital built at a cost of $3.2 million by The Marine Mammal Center in Marin, Calif. until about September. Two other monk seal pups, Pua and Mele, were rehabilitated and plumped up at the hospital for six months last year, then transported back to Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with help from the U.S. Coast Guard. They were rescued last September as severely malnourished pups.

Wickham actually got a chance to observe them in the wild on this last 21-day voyage to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands aboard NOAA's Hi‘ialakai.

"They're doing really well, doing great," said Wickham, who added that seeing Pua and Mele healthy at home was the best reward.

Hawaiian monk seals are critically endangered, with a population of fewer than 1,100 remaining in the wild, according to NOAA. They are protected by both state and federal laws, and should be left in peace if resting on a shoreline. A growing number, between 150 to 200, are appearing on main Hawaiian isle shorelines like Maui, Kauai and Oahu. Volunteers from the Monk Seal Foundation help keep watch over them, as well as maintain a safe distance between the wild seals and humans.

Ke Kai Ola, a brand-new facility at NELHA, offers specialized pens and pools for the rehabilitation of Hawaiian monk seals, plus a fish kitchen, lab and office. The hospital welcomes help from volunteers in the community who want to help with its mission of helping save the critically endangered monk seals. Visit www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii to learn more.

Hermes at Ke Kai Ola in Kona. Hermes just began eating whole fish and is on his way to recovery. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hermes at Ke Kai Ola in Kona. Hermes just began eating whole fish and is on his way to recovery. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Related Video:
Pua and Mele being released at Kure Atoll (By The Marine Mammal Center)

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Q&A Kahi Pacarro

By
June 18th, 2015



Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Upon his June 8 return from a 21-day mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, also known as Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the NOAA ship Hi‘ialakai, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro says he's hoping to return again to clear even more of it from those remote isles.

NOAA partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a pilot project to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics from the beaches of Kure Atoll, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll and French Frigate Shoals during three weeks in May and June. As part of the project, the types and sources of debris will be identified, along with an estimate of accumulation rates.

In total, the team hauled back about 5,000 pounds of debris — large pieces of plastic, buoys, and nets. Most of it will be recycled and used for an installation art piece, according to Pacarro.

The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Kahi.

Q: How did you end up going on this trip with NOAA?

A: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program goes out every year and leaves as a full boat, drops off field teams and supplies and comes back with a barebones crew. They saw an opportunity, and said, why don't we start bringing back some of the marine debris on the way back? They thought of my organization because they've seen us get the work done and pick up marine debris versus just talking about it. That's kind of how it started.

Q: Was it a challenge?

A: For us, it was figuring out where the marine debris was coming from, how to put it on a small boat, how to get it from reef to boat, how to make sure it's stored safely, how to get it off the boat and into a storage facility...The NOAA marine debris program focuses on entanglement hazards, so that's going to be nets floating on nearshore waters, nets on shores and beaches, and those attached to reefs...Then there's the terrestrial plastic polluting the beach. That's the stuff the Monk Seal Research Program team has to walk by on a daily basis to check on the monk seals...So we picked up those piles, and ended up bringing back about 5,000 pounds of marine debris.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea and hauled them back to Oahu aboard the Hi‘ialakai. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Q: What will you do with 5,000 pounds of that marine debris?

A: We'll be incorporating them into the state's largest marine debris art installation at Thomas Square (in time for) the 2016 IUCN (Sept. 1-10) conference. When completed, it will be recycled through our partnerships with Method and Parley for the Oceans. Whatever they can't take, ropes and what not, if we don't have a source for somebody to recycle it, it will go to our trash energy program...

Q: Since this was your first time out there, what was your first impression? What was the most interesting observation you made out there?

A: The first place we landed was Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals...There were so many birds. It was like stepping into a National Geographic television show...They're everywhere, and you have to look where you step because there are eggs everywhere. It's a very fragile ecosystem. One false step and you've killed a baby bird.

Q: What about the amount of marine debris out there?

A: What I saw was the dirtiest beach I'd ever been to, and that was on Laysan. It must have been accumulation of plastics since the invention of plastics. It was the dominant feature of the landscape. It outnumbered birds. The birds just live amongst it, and so do the [Hawaiian monk] seals, and so do the turtles. They live with this marine debris and they become dull to it just like society becomes dull to it. What we have to do is raise awareness...

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

When we did our first beach cleanup, there were only eight of us cleaning this south section of Lisianski island, this thing was three or four football fields, and there was marine debris everywhere. There was no way eight of us were going to make a dent in this zone. We said, 'You know what? Let's just try.' Within six hours, we had that area completely clean... We just put out heads down, drank a lot of water and pt on a lot of sunscreen. It was really hot, but it was so rewarding...We created this technique, using old ropes to string up the [commercial fishing] buoys like they were a 200-pound lei, and like football players pulled them up oto the high tide line where they couldn't be easily washed away. Knowing we could up that much area with so few people gives you hope...

Q: Was it an eye-opener for you, even though you already deal with marine debris at your beach cleanups?

A: Yeah, definitely. I didn't expect there to be that much trash. Some key things that stuck out in my mind were the amount of commercial fishing gear that was out there...I saw multiple smart FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) used in the commercial fishing industry...It's like a dome, it floats, has a solar panel, electronics within with sonar testers that can be calibrated to determine how many fish are underneath...it also has GPS coordinates...We saw at least 100 FADs out there...We looked up these companies and their focus is on bluefin tuna. I eat so much tuna. I love spicy ahi donburi — now what am I supposed to do because I am contributing to this problem? It's a tough realization, yet I am contributing to this problem on a large-scale by firing up on spicy ahi donburi, unless it's coming from my local fisherman... It comes down to regulation, it also comes down to us as consumers...

Q: What type of marine debris did you find  most of out there?

A: I was expecting to find a lot of single-use plastic water bottles out there. The only bottles making it out there were bottles where the cap was left on. Every single bottle that we found out there had a cap on it...That means that billions of bottles that do make it into the ocean are sinking to the bottom and lining the ocean floor...The No. 1 trash items were from the hag fish and oyster industries...Hag fish traps and oyster spacers, then buoys...And we still found a lot of [plastic] straws, a lot of toothbrushes and a lot of razors, even deodorant.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Q: How does this change your perspective on marine debris and your mission at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii?

A: It strengthens our existing desire to clean more marine debris, increase recycling of marine debris using what's existing versus virgin products, along with being better consumers, and using the power of our wallets to effect change within our society. That transcends beyond marine debris and plastics. That goes into what you eat, what you eat it out of, energy, where you get your energy from...

Q: Will you return to Papahanaumokuakea next year?

A: I sure hope so...Potentially, next year what we'd like to do, is probably have one of us on the boat for the whole time. When it gets to Midway, have a crew of our own meet them there and come down as a team to exponentially increase the amount of marine debris we can pick up...

PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR

Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's next big event is its Magic Island & Ala Wai Boat Harbor Cleanup on Saturday, June 27. Check in time is 9:30 a.m., clean up time is 10 a.m. to noon. Free lunch will be available while supplies last.

SCHJune27cleanup

It's a girl! Monk seal pup P01

By
March 19th, 2015



 

Hawaiian monk seal pup, P01, is the first monk seal born in 2015. She was born Feb. 25. Photo taken March 7 by Nathan Yuen of hawaiianforest.com.

Hawaiian monk seal pup, P01, is the first monk seal born in 2015. She was born Feb. 25. Frolicking in the water on the North Shore of Oahu, near Turtle Bay Resort. Photo taken March 7 by Nathan Yuen of hawaiianforest.com.

Hawaiian monk seal pup P01, the first pup of 2015, is close to one month old.

Monk seal pup P01 was born Feb. 25, 2015, to mother monk seal Honey Girl (R5AY) near Turtle Bay Resort just as crowds were converging for the Wanderlust Oahu yoga and music festival. She has garnered fans, far and wide, who have been documenting her in photos and videos, frolicking in the waves and nursing.

"Plain and simple, watching the pup with Honey Girl is mother nature at its best," said Donna Festa, a volunteer who runs a monk seal blog (and who is also the owner of Lanikai General Store). "There is clearly a connection between them. The pup is pretty independent but at the same time stays close to mom. Honey Girls is such a good mom, too. She raises very strong, independent offspring."

When Festa went up to the North Shore to see P01, the pup was mostly in snooze mode, with a few wiggles here and there.

Check out this awesome video by nature photographer Nathan Yuen of hawaiianforest.com (at bottom).

NOAA officials announced that the pup was a girl, but the Hawaiian monk seal community has not given her an official nickname yet. She's a very active pup who sticks close to mom. Honey Girl, a fish hook survivor, is a great mom — this is, as a matter of fact, her 9th pup.

Honey Girl (R5AY) and monk seal pup P01. Courtesy of monksealmania.blogspot.com.

Honey Girl (R5AY) and monk seal pup P01. Courtesy of monksealmania.blogspot.com.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal pupping season lasts from February to July — between 10 to 20 baby monk seals are born during that time. Another monk seal pup (below) was born to RV06 at Kalaupapa National Historical Park in March.

Molokai pup born in March at Kalaupapa National Historic Park. Courtesy HMSRP.

Molokai pup born in March at Kalaupapa National Historic Park. Courtesy HMSRP.

Remember to give the monk seals plenty of room — about 150 feet — and let them rest. Hawaiian monk seal moms can be very protective. Fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals remain in the wild, with about 200 residing in the main Hawaiian isles, and a population decline of about 3 percent per year.

To learn more about Hawaiian monk seals, visit NOAA's page.

Related Video:

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Sea Lions Zeno and Shackle

By
February 20th, 2015



SAUSALITO, CALIF. — It took less than a minute.

Schoolchildren, teachers and other members of the public had lined up in a V-shape along the shores of Rodeo Beach in Marin, Calif., to witness the release of two rescued sea lions by staff at The Marine Mammal Center.

Once released from their kennels, California sea lions Zeno and Shackle, did not linger or hesitate. They shuffled quickly along the sand, making a beeline for the ocean. As they entered the water together, a smattering of applause came from the audience.

Then we watched in delight, as their two heads bobbed in the waves. It was a beautiful sight.

Zeno and Shackle head out to their ocean home after being rescued and released by The Marine Mammal Center at Rodea Beach in Marin, Calif.

Zeno and Shackle head out to their ocean home after being rescued and released by The Marine Mammal Center at Rodeo Beach in Marin, Calif. The two seals were rescued from the Santa Cruz and Monterey area.

Beautiful, because these wild mammals are returning to their natural habitat, where they should be. Beautiful, because they were being given a second chance — humans may have created the problems that hindered them, but humans can also be part of the solution.

What the audience may not have known is how much work it took to get the wild sea lions into the kennel, weighed on a scale, then carefully loaded onto a pickup truck and carted across the sand for the release. Staff and volunteers at the center all played a vital role.

The release was also a small, uplifting celebration in the midst of a sea lion crisis. For the third year in a row, sea lion pups are stranding along the California coastline in record numbers. While the center usually houses about 10 sea lion pups, it was taking care of nearly 100.  TIME Magazine on Feb. 18 explored whether the strandings could be caused by rising ocean temperatures impacting the diet of sea lions (squid, anchovies, mackerel).

"We call sea lions sentinels of the sea," said MMC communications curator Sarah van Scagen. "What's going on with them can tell us a lot about the oceans as a whole."

Zeno, a female California sea lion, was rescued from Santa Cruz in January. She was behaving abnormally for a sea lion, and rescuers who  picked her up confirmed she was suffering from domoic acid toxicity. Domoic acid, produced by algae, accumulates in shellfish, sardines and anchovies, which in turn, are consumed  by sea lions. The biotoxin affects the brain, causing lethargy and disorientation. It can also affect people, so the center gives the health department a heads up when it discovers a case like Zeno's.

For Shackle, a male California sea lion picked up from Monterey, the problem was simpler – he had been entangled with a fishing net around his neck that left a scar. But luckily, once the net was removed, he quickly regained weight and was ready to be released.

Releasing two sea lions together is ideal, according to van Schagen, because they can keep one another company. Sea lions are, by nature, social animals.

That seemed apparent — the pair seemed as if they were immediately bonded as they headed into the waves.

TMMC, founded in 1975, is the non-profit that recently celebrated the grand opening of Ke Kai Ola (The Healing Sea), the first monk seal hospital at NELHA in Kona, in September. With more than $3.2 million raised in funds, TMMC was able to build four pens with pools – two for juvenile and adult seals and two for pups, along with a fish kitchen, medical lab and seawater filtration infrastructure for the pools.

Ke Kai Ola's first patients were four young, malnourished monk seals — Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala — from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They were admitted in July, and released (nice and fat again) on Aug. 31. The center's current patients are Meleana and Pua, also from the NWHI, who were admitted as malnourished pups in September. Hopefully, they'll be released soon, too.

Sea lions Zeno and Shackle, are released and ready to head back to their ocean home.

Sea lions Zeno and Shackle, are released and ready to head back to their ocean home.

Posted in Conservation, Endangered species, Hawaiian monk seals, Marine Life, Ocean | Comments Off on Sea Lions Zeno and Shackle

Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

By
December 26th, 2014



 

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

It was a year of highs, and a year of lows for the environment. There were several milestones, and there remain many unknowns for the upcoming year of 2015. Below is a summary of the markers for the year 2014, as I saw it.

1. Plastic overload. The year 2014 was the year of plastic, as has been the case in previous years. This year, the alarm is at an all-time high. A new study published in December by the scientific journal, PLOS ONE, reported that an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic (enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks) is floating in the world's ocean, and that's only the plastic that's on the surface, not the ocean floor. Not only that, but the plastic breaks down into more than 5 trillion pieces. The impacts of all this plastic in our oceans as well as the food chain (including the fish and seafood we eat) are still unknown. Read the AP story posted Dec. 13, 2014 at staradvertiser.com.

2. Plastic-bag free. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 in September, officially banning retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags, including biodegradable bags. But the law doesn't go into effect until July 1, 2015. With that in place, Oahu joins Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic bags at checkout. Apparently, the reaction among our readers was to start hoarding plastic bags (49 percent of our readers, based on our Big Q poll). In September, California was the first to implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.

3. Monk seal hospital. Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2. The Marine Mammal Center's $3.2 million facility is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance. Four young, malnourished monk seals, Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala, were admitted on July 9 after being rescued from the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

4. Monk seal death. This year also marked a sad occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the daughter of Rocky, or RH58. An initial reward offer of $5,000 doubled to $10,000. In an unprecedented move, The Garden Island newspaper also decided to offer a $10,000 reward.

5. Expanded protection. President Barack Obama in September, through presidential proclamation, extended the protection zone around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 50 nautical miles. It was heralded as a victory by many conservation organizations in Hawaii who testified in favor of it.

6. HECO roller coaster. The Hawaii Electric Cos., the utility for the islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, touched a major public nerve when its Aug. 26 plan was received by the Public Utilties Commission, proposing that the basic connection fees for customers in Honolulu be raised to a minimum of $55. On top of that, HECO attempted to drive a wedge between solar and non-solar customers, blamed its aging grid problems on solar PV customers and asked that new solar customers pay additional fees to connect. This came at a time when more than 3,500 solar PV customers were still waiting, from 9 months to a year, to get connected. Even DBEDT criticized the utility for putting its own profits above public interest while continuing to adhere to an outdated business model. Then in December HEI announced Florida-based NextEra would acquire the company for $4.3 billion, pending approval by the PUC. It's unknown how NextEra will treat individual solar PV customers. Let's just hope that battery storage systems become more affordable in coming years so that customers who want to get solar PV can do so, without worrying about the utility's grid.

7. Solar. It was not a good year for the solar industry in Hawaii. As reported in the Star-Advertiser business section, roof solar permits issued in Honolulu fell by 50 percent. Only 520 permits were issued by the city last month compared to 1,040 in November 2013 despite the availability of both state and federal tax credits (the federal tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016). Looking at the overall picture, though, the Hawaii State Energy Office noted that distributed renewable energy system installations increased significantly from 12,560 in 2012 to 18,316  in 2013. At the end of the year, the cumulative number of systems statewide totaled 40,717 with a total capacity of 253.5 Megawatt (MW). The state also ranked first in energy performance contracting in the nation with an investment of $235.74 per capita, and earned a third, consecutive Race to the Top award from the Energy Services Coalition in 2014.

8. Bronze for bikes. Honolulu earned its first bronze as a bicycle-friendly city from the League of American Bicyclists. Honolulu is the first municipality in Hawaii to achieve the bronze. Bicycle activists say Honolulu made strides in five areas, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. They also laud the new King St. Cycle Track as a big step forward.

9.  Invasive species. From downed albizia trees on the Big Island to little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles, the year 2014 was a year to monitor potentially destructive invasive species. The state department of agriculture does the best that it can on a meager budget. The albizia trees got plenty of attention during tropical storm Iselle, when they fell like a row of matchsticks and downed power lines. The little fire ants made their way to Mililani Mauka. The latest coconut rhino beetle, previously discovered around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,  was found in a trap at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Add to the list, a coconut crab in Salt Lake, and an emu on the Big Island.

10. Electric Vehicles. The number of people driving electric vehicles in Hawaii continues to grow. As of October 2014, DBEDT estimated the number of passenger electric vehicles in the state was 3,026, up 54.5 percent, from 1,068 from the same month a year ago. More charging stations are also popping up around the isles. Volta just announced two free charging stations outside of Whole Foods Market in Kahului, Maui.

Posted in Biking, electric cars, Energy, Green events, Hawaiian monk seals, Plastic | Comments Off on Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

Monk seal pup RF58

By
December 4th, 2014



 

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead by officials, with apparent blunt force trauma to its head last week. Photo by Jamie Thornton/NOAA.

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead, with blunt trauma to its head last Sunday. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

It's with great sadness that we mark the end of 2014 with the suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal pup on the northeast coast of Kauai.

Female pup seal RF58, died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head at a beach in Anahola on Sunday, Nov. 30. She was only an estimated 4 to 5 months old. The pup was  the daughter of Rocky (RH58) who spends most of her time on Oahu. Both had recently survived a dog attack on the north shore of Kauai in July — RF58 was one of two pups that recovered from that attack.

"What a sad day for all our volunteers who worked so hard in keeping track of all the seals out there on Kauai," said Barbara Billand, a volunteer for the Monk Seal Foundation on Oahu, in an e-mail. "I don't know why anyone would harm these poor pups. They are defenseless...vulnerable. All they are trying to do is survive."

Billand recalls having the opportunity to see RF58 as a newborn pup on Kauai back in June, when she was still with Rocky. She considers that day as a gift, as she witnessed RF58 struggle with some waves and then catch up to Rocky.

"What a great feeling of joy," she said.

"She was a beautiful, healthy little girl," said Billand. "May she rest in peace."

The news of the seal pup's death, announced Tuesday by NOAA and DLNR, is the first one due to suspicious circumstances this year. The last suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal was in April 2012, also on Kauai. From November 2011 to April 2012, four seals were found dead under suspicious circumstances on Kauai and Molokai.

An initial reward of $5,000 has been doubled to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this latest monk seal death. The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai is also offering a $10,000 reward, which was announced Friday.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries to her head, and internal bleeding, a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt a Hawaiian monk seal pup — out of viciousness or just for sport. It shows a real lack of respect for nature, and for life.

Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species protected under both state and federal laws. Only an estimated 1,100 remain in the wild. Most reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, but a growing number, about 200, live in and around the main Hawaiian islands. They have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

Many, like Rocky, also travel back and forth. Rocky travels to Kauai to give birth to monk seal pups — when the pups wean, mom leaves. The loss of a female monk seal is a blow to the survival of the species, since they are the ones that produce new pups.

Killing a Hawaiian monk seal is considered a Class C felony, with violators facing fines up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

RF58 was observed near her birthplace less than 24 hours before she was found dead, in good health and behaving normally.

A confidential hotline is available at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR.

Rest in peace, RF58. You will not be forgotten.

RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley

Photo of RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley.

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