NOAA Fisheries is looking into the mysterious deaths of three monk seals who died on Oahu this week.
The first adult female seal, known as RK60, was found dead floating offshore Tuesday, May 15. She was previously seen on May 2, but reported to be in good condition. Then on Wednesday, a female pup was found in Laie as well as an adult Female by the name of RT10 in Kahuku.
“Although it seems strange to have three deaths in one week, it seems to be some strange coincidence,” said Angela Amlin, NOAA Fisheries, Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator. “It does not appear to be a trend or sign of unusual event going on,” she added.
Post-mortem exams have been conducted, but officials say decomposition limited the definitive conclusions that could be drawn from those exams. At this time, they say they don’t have any reason to associate these deaths with a trend, pattern, or common threat. Follow-up lab analyses will be completed in the coming weeks to attempt to determine a final cause of death.
“There were no invert signs of trauma, fish hook ingestion, or entanglement, but we still don’t know what the ultimate cause was,” Amlin added.
In the meantime, NOAA is reminding the public they can play a key role in monk seal emergency response by proactively reporting any seal they see.
It appears that one of the seals, RK60, may have been observed “logging” (floating listlessly) in Kaneohe Bay in the days leading up to the discovery of her body. This logging behavior can be a symptom of a sick seal. Reports of this behavior did not reach NOAA until after RK60 died, but more timely reporting may have given NOAA a chance to intervene and help her.
The number to call for reporting is 220-7802 on Oahu and 888-256-9840 for the neighbor islands.
Officials say there are around 1,300 to 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals in population. There are around 250 throughout the main Hawaiian islands.