HONOLULU (KHON2) — With reports of the monk seal population growing it should come as a reminder how important it is to leave them be. 

NOAA Fisheries released yearly statistics on the cause of death to monk seals. In their detailed report for 2021, there were three intentional killings of monk seals on Moloka’i.

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Date of StrandingAge/Sex/IDCause of DeathNotes
9/19/2021Juvenile female (RMM1/L11)Gunshot Full examination conducted
6/3/2021Nursing pup
InconclusiveCarcass washed out to sea
5/25/2021Sub-adult female (RK44)Inconclusive*Carcass washed out to sea
5/13/2021Newborn female pup(RPX2)Reproductive complications (failure to thrive)Full examination conducted
4/27/2021Sub-adult male
Blunt force traumaFull examination conducted
4/27/2021Sub-adult male
Blunt force traumaFull examination conducted
4/10/2021Newborn male pup(RPX1)Reproductive complications (fetal stress)Full examination conducted
2/1/2021Adult female(seal ID unidentified)Inconclusive*Heavily decomposed; minimal examination
1/29/2021Adult male
(seal ID unidentified)
Inconclusive*Heavily decomposed; minimal examination
Courtesy: NOAA Fisheries

They reported several other seal deaths investigated on the island as well. However, some exact causes were inconclusive due to decomposition and other circumstances. 

The most recent report of an intentional monk seal killing was on Moloka’i in Sept. 2021. NOAA reports that through their analyses they determined a young female seal died of a gunshot wound to the head. NOAA found a bullet fragment in association with evidence of severe, lethal trauma. 

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement may issue rewards to individuals who provide helpful information that may lead to an arrest, conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property violation of laws and regulations that NOAA enforces. 

Under state and federal laws, it’s a felony to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal. Penalties can include up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

However, that hasn’t stopped some tourists from getting close to these animals and trying to touch them.

Last July, Gov. David Ige issued a statement on the rise of some unruly visitors disturbing monk seals while they rest on the beach. 

“Absolutely unacceptable,” were some of the strong words that came from Gov. David Ige on Wednesday, July 14, as videos of visitors touching Hawaiian monk seals continue to surface on social media.

Gov. David Ige released this statement: 

“I’ve seen an increase in distressing videos recently of what appears to be visitors to our state touching and disturbing our endangered native Hawaiian monk seals. I want to be clear that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable. Visitors to our islands – you’re asked to respect our people, culture, and laws protecting endangered species that are found nowhere else in the world. For those who don’t, make no mistake, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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Anyone with information about the deaths of Hawaiian monk seals should contact the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964.