HONOLULU — Coast Guard crews, working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration transported two rehabilitated Hawaiian monk seals from the Big Island to Oahu, Thursday for future release back to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, received the seals at Kona International Airport, Kailua-Kona, Thursday morning.
“We sincerely appreciate the assistance the Coast Guard provides,” said David Schofield, NOAA Marine Mammal Health and Response Program Manager. “There are only 1,100 Hawaiian Monk Seals left so this helps with their recovery tremendously.”
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. Part of the true seal family, they are one of only two remaining monk seal species.
Safeguarding marine mammals falls under the Coast Guard’s living marine resources mission, one of the service’s 11 statutory missions. The nation’s waterways and their ecosystems are vital to the country’s economy and health. This includes ensuring the country’s marine protected species are provided the protection necessary to help their populations recover to healthy, sustainable levels.
The Coast Guard partners with NOAA on many living marine resources missions in Hawaii to protect endangered marine mammals including humpback whales. Operation Kohola Guardian involves coordinated joint Coast Guard, NOAA and State of Hawaii patrols of the National Marine Sanctuary during the peak Humpback Whale season months of January through March.
The 14th Coast Guard District is home to four Marine National Monuments and two National Marine Sanctuaries, more than any other region in the United States.