State believes recent Hawaiian monk seal deaths on Molokai caused by humans

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The investigation continues into the recent deaths of three Hawaiian monk seals on Molokai, and officials believe their deaths were caused by human-inflicted trauma.

A non-tagged, unidentified juvenile male seal was found dead at Pakaa Beach on the west end of the island on June 25. Another seal, RJ26, a juvenile male, born at Kalaupapa in April 2017, was found dead on June 18 on the east end of Molokai near mile marker 22. This is in addition to the death of seal RJ42 reported in May.  

Officials believe human-inflicted trauma is behind a total of eight monk seal deaths on Molokai since 2009.

Community leaders Walter Ritte, Malia Akutagawa, and Laa Poepoe issued the following statement:

“We are deeply troubled and concerned about the killings of our monk seals. This is not pono. The Kumulipo teaches us that we as people possess ancestral and familial ties to all manifestations of creation, including to the kinolau (physical body form and divine essence) of ocean god Kanaloa. The monk seal is kinolau of Kanaloa. The ocean gives and the ocean takes away. To be lawaiʻa pono, fishers that observe the kānāwai (the greater laws of our kūpuna) in order that we may receive continual blessings from the sea, we live in a way that honors and co-exists with those who are kinolau of akua Kanaloa.  The settlement of monk seals and birthing of new pups on our shores are gifts from Kanaloa, not a threat to our fishery. To kill monk seals means to dishonor Kanaloa and the kānāwai — and ultimately, it means to alienate our own selves and destroy our human dignity.”

An investigation is underway by officers from the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) and the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE).

Anyone with information on these deaths, or to report marine mammals and sea turtles in trouble, is asked to call 888-256-9840.

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