If you see a Hawaiian monk seal on your next fishing trip, don’t feed it.
That’s the message from the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Recently, at least three seals have been seen in the small bay adjacent to the Kahe Power Plant on Oahu’s Waianae coast looking for food. Reports indicate some anglers have provided them with the scraps of a fish that a seal tried to take off a hook.
Wildlife officials say that interaction is harmful, and the seal will return for more.
“A seal that gets food from one fisherman will then try to poach from other hook and line fishermen or spear fishermen, impacting everyone’s fishing experience,” said Angela Amlin, Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator for the NOAA Pacific Fisheries Office.
If you see a seal, Amlin advises taking a break from fishing: “Hopefully the seal gets bored and moves on. If the seal does get your bait or part of a catch, don’t throw it back into the water as that becomes an incentive for a seal to keep coming back.”
Officials put up a seal safety sign at the entrance to the area, and are reaching out to educate fishermen.
Feeding a seal, or attempting to feed a seal (or any wild marine mammal), is prohibited under federal law.
If you see a seal while fishing, or a seal takes your bait or catch — and especially if you think a seal might be hooked — call on the statewide Marine Animal Stranding and Entanglement hotline: 1-888-256-9840.