The Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday morning that a juvenile monk seal flown by the U.S. Coast Guard from Hawaii Island to Oahu last Friday for medical treatment has died.
A necropsy conducted by NOAA Fisheries revealed that the young male seal, known by his ID tags as RK68, suffered fractured ribs earlier in life, but ingestion of a fishing hook more recently is believed to be the cause of death.
Results of the necropsy reveal that the seal may have been hooked for several weeks or months. Officials believe had they received a detailed report of the hooking incident when it occurred, the chances of a life-saving response could have been much greater.
This was the first monk seal death of 2013 and the first from Hawaii Island according to available data. Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has promised increased support from the County.
NOAA officials note that monk seal hookings appear to be increasing. There were nine reported hookings in 2011, none of which resulted in deaths. There were 15 hookings reported in 2012, resulting in three deaths. This incident marks the first seal death of 2013. Another seal was reported with a hook in its tongue Monday afternoon on Kauai. DLNR and NOAA Fisheries considers these numbers concerning.
A monk seal was reported with a hook in its tongue on Monday on Kauai. Sea Life Park veterinarian Beth Doescher and response staff discuss hook removal techniques.
The response team moves to remove the hook.
Because the hooking was reported early, the hook was surgically removed and the seal is doing fine.