Hawaiian monk seal pup RJ58, also known as Kaimana, appears to have avoided what could have been a serious injury due to what appears to be abandoned fishing equipment.
At around noon on Labor Day, volunteers from Hawaii Marine Animal Response spotted her with a hook and a lure hanging from her mouth.
The monk seal response team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service was called in.
Officials say Kaimana was able to shake off the hook and lure on her own, and was resting on the beach by the time the team arrived.
An examination revealed a small wound, but no sign of infection. She continues to be monitored, and officials say she is in excellent condition and behaving normally.
Kaimana was born on the popular Waikiki beach she was nicknamed after, and quickly became a popular public attraction.
After she was weaned and her mother, Rocky, left the beach, officials moved Kaimana to a remote, undisclosed location in August, where she could continue to grow without human interference.
Officials say Kaimana was hooked with a type of lure typically used by fishermen casting or “whipping” for fish like papio or ulua.
It is rare for monk seals to be hooked with this type of gear.
Considering the algal growth on the lure, officials say it was probably not being actively used when Kaimana was hooked. The likely scenario is the lure was snagged on the bottom and Kaimana hooked herself by mouthing it.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources says between 1976 and 2016, there have been 155 documented hookings and entanglements in gill nets, which resulted in 12 monk seal deaths.
Fishermen can help reduce the chances of this type of interaction by taking extra care to retrieve as much gear as possible.
NOAA and DLNR remind people to please fish responsibly by following these best practices developed in consultation with leaders in the fishing community:
- Take care when casting if a seal is in the area
- Fish with barbless circle-hooks
- Clean catch away from seals
- Seals are wild animals. Never approach a hooked seal, call for help (888-256-9840).