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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Endangered monk seal found dead off Waimanalo

Advertiser Staff

A 9-month-old Hawaiian monk seal was found drowned in a gill net Tuesday offshore from Waimanalo.

The female, nicknamed Mikala by monk seal volunteers, was seen floating offshore from Bellows Beach at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and brought to shore by lifeguards, said Charles Littnan, lead scientist for NOAA Fisheries' monk seal research program.

The animal was entangled in a net known as a lay, or gill net.

A necropsy of the animal determined that it drowned, Littnan said.

The seal is the sixth confirmed monk seal drowning in a laynet since 1976 -- and the third since 2006, Littnan said.

"When you're looking at an endangered species, every animal is important," Littnan said. "The fact this was a young female -- that's the future of the species. Losing any young female is a tremendous loss to the population, as well as that individual."

State law requires that users of lay, or gill nets register their nets with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and inspect nets in use every two hours, removing any illegal or unwanted catch.

NOAA Fisheries and the DLNR are investigating the seal's death.

NOAA Fisheries' 24-hour entangled or injured marine mammal hotline: 1-888-256-9840.