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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, June 30, 2001

Monk seal born on Kaho'olawe

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

The National Marine Fisheries Services has tagged a Hawaiian monk seal pup on Kaho'olawe, the first recorded birth of the endangered species on the former military bombing range.

"We had a successful mission,'' declared Margaret Akamine Dupree, coordinator of the Hawai'i Marine Mammal Stranding Network. "With the assistance of the Navy, we found the pup without a problem and were able to measure and tag him for future monitoring. He appears to be healthy.''

It is believed that the pup was born May 9 or May 10 on the western side of the island near Kealaikahiki. It is now about 4 feet long, and has shed its black baby fur for a thick gray coat. The seal was tagged on June 22.

The Navy, through its contractor Parsons-UXB Joint Venture, is removing unexploded ordnance from the island.

"This was an exciting event for us,'' said Bruce Campbell, Parsons-UXB's environmental manager for the Kaho'olawe project. "This was our first real opportunity to work directly with NMFS personnel to protect on-island natural resources, and everything went smoothly.''

There are an estimated 1,300 to 1,400 monk seals in the Hawaiian Islands. As of June 20, four births have been confirmed on the main islands: a pup born on May 4 on the shoreline of the Ka'u district of the Big Island, and pups born earlier in June on Kaua'i's north shore and on Moloka'i.

Regulations prohibit disturbing monk seals. People and their pets are required to stay at least 50 yards away from a seal resting on the beach because of potential risks to both humans and animals.