Donor pledges $10,000 in hunt for monk seals' killers
By Coco Zickos
The Garden Island
LIHUE — An anonymous donor has pledged $10,000 to the Surfrider Foundation in an effort to help indict the killers of Hawaiian monk seals found dead last year on Kauai and Molokai.
A $5,000 reward will go to anyone who has information which could lead to the arrest and conviction of the person involved in slaying the male monk seal discovered floating off Kaunakakai on Dec. 14. Some $7,000 will now be offered to those with information regarding the male seal discovered dead April 19 at Kaumakani, in addition to the $5,000 reward put up last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“There are people out there who are still really mad that somebody’s doing this and they’re willing to give big money to resolve this,” Kauai Surfrider’s Carl Berg said yesterday. “We really want to find out what’s going on and we really want people to understand these are nature’s creatures.”
Only about 1,100 monk seals remain throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, with about 115 traversing the main islands, NOAA Marine Mammal Response Coordinator David Schofield said yesterday.
A large seal kill off in the 1800s is likely thought to have devastated their population. Only within the last 20 years have they begun to recover — in small numbers — he said.
While the federal government and nonprofit organizations have their own initiatives as far as offering rewards are concerned, hurting animals that can’t defend themselves can really rouse emotion within the community, Schofield said when asked why there has been such an emphasis in finding those guilty of the crimes.
Earl Miyamoto, a life-long fisherman and incidental take permit coordinator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said he is familiar with the resistance to accept the re-emergence of monk seals.
Miyamoto, born and raised in Hawaii, said he never even came across the creatures in Island waters until recently. Because their small recovery is coinciding with the rapid decline in fish, they are “very convenient to blame,” he said.
“The fisheries have been going down for a long time” and it didn’t just happen since the monk seals started returning, he said.
“It’s not the seals overfishing, it’s us,” he said. “There aren’t any fish around anymore.”
Kumu Sabra Kauka, a Kauai native practitioner, said she is still confused by the recent killings of Hawaiian monk seals.
“The seals have been in the ocean longer than we’ve been walking on the earth,” she said. “This is something that we as humans need to acknowledge — the fact that we’re not the only species on the earth.”
Humans are supposed to have intelligence, thoughtfulness and control of our behavior, but we are not demonstrating this by killing defenseless creatures, she said.
“Malama the monk seal,” Schofield said. “Recognize they are the kama‘aina of the sea.”