Monk seal safely transferred from Big Island to Oahu to return home

Personnel from the Coast Guard 14th District, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Marine Mammal Center have partnered to transport a rehabilitated monk seal from Kona to Honolulu aboard a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane August 9, 2017, for further transport to her original home in the wild. Photo taken under the authority of NMFS MMP A/ESA Permit NO. 18786-01. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur/Released)

Personnel from the Coast Guard 14th District, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Marine Mammal Center have partnered to transport a rehabilitated monk seal from Kona to Honolulu aboard a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane August 9, 2017, for further transport to her original home in the wild. Photo taken under the authority of NMFS MMP A/ESA Permit NO. 18786-01. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur/Released)

HONOLULU — Personnel from the Coast Guard 14th District, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Marine Mammal Center partnered to transport a rehabilitated monk seal from Kona to Honolulu aboard a HC-130 Hercules airplane HC-130 Hercules airplane Wednesday for further transport to her original home in the wild.

“This is one of our 11 statutory missions and it’s a great one because it’s part of our living marine resources program and it allows us to be not only and enforcement arm for the protection of our natural resources but also to help with conservation,” said Eric Roberts, marine resource specialist, Coast Guard 14th District. “This is a unique opportunity for the Coast Guard to play a part in the recovery of this critically endangered species.”

This collaboration has successfully rehabilitated and released more than 15 young Hawaiian monk seals and become a critical piece in the monk seal recovery plan now in its 10th year. The Coast Guard transports six marine mammals on average each year in conjunction with other missions such as necessary training flights.

“The public can help us with Hawaiian monk seals because they can be aware when seals are in an area that they might be swimming or fishing and give seals a very safe distance,” Dr. Michelle Barbieri, veterinarian for the Hawaiian monk seal research program at NOAA. “It’s very important we keep seals wild by giving them the space that they need to do their natural behaviors. They can also help by reporting sightings of monk seals to their local hotline.”

This young female seal was rescued by NOAA in May and taken to The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola monk seal rehabilitation facility on Hawaii Island for care and stabilization.

Upon arrival to Oahu, the seal will be temporarily housed at the NOAA IRC facility on Ford Island and then be loaded onto a NOAA Fisheries ship and transported to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office announced in July that 2017 is the “Year of the Monk Seal” incorporating events throughout the year. It is also a celebration of a new, positive population estimate for the species. The most recent annual population assessment shows that the Hawaiian monk seal, bucking past trends, has increased in numbers by 3 percent annually for the past three years. The population is now estimated to be around 1,400 seals.

To report monk seal sightings, Email NOAA at pifsc.monksealsighting@noaa.gov or
Call your island’s Marine Mammal Response Coordinator:
Island of Hawaii: (808) 987-0765
Kauai: (808) 651-7668
Maui/Lanai: (808) 292-2372
Molokai: (808) 553-5555
Oahu: (808) 220-7802

To report stranded / entangled marine mammals call: 1-888-256-9840

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