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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 27, 2004

Monk seal on Maui seen begging for food

Advertiser Staff

MA'ALAEA, Maui — A Hawaiian monk seal reportedly has been begging for food in Ma'alaea Harbor in recent days, and wildlife officials yesterday issued a reminder that feeding or harassing such animals is against state and federal law.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Marine Fisheries Service also warned that feeding seals is harmful to the animals and dangerous to people.

Witnesses say the seal has been swimming up to people on shore and following them as they walk along the dock.

Joe Fell-McDonald found himself face to face with the seal while working at the stern of a whale-research vessel.

"I turned around and there he was," Fell-McDonald told state officials. "He seemed to be saying, 'Where's my food?' After a brief staring contest, he swam to the next boat, then on to the next and so on, always acting as if he was looking for food or something."

Officials said the Ma'alaea situation appears similar to one that arose at Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua'i in October. The seal, known as K07 or "Lucky," was reportedly fed by various harbor users and was repeatedly spotted begging for handouts.

The seal was found dead on the beach near Kapa'a in late January. A necropsy revealed no obvious cause of death, though laboratory test results are pending.

Changing the natural behavior of the seal by feeding it may decrease its ability to survive on its own, according to research.

If you see an injured seal, call NOAA Fisheries at (888) 256-9840.