Kaua‘i monk seal that bit fish hook released

HONOLULU — A Hawaiian monk seal captured on Kaua‘i earlier this month after biting a fish hook was released back into the wild last week, according to state officials. A seal captured on O‘ahu around the same time as the Kaua‘i seal wasn’t so lucky, and was euthanized.

“Thanks to the citizens who reported the hooking of monk seal Kolohe, we are pleased to announce that he has recovered and was released back on Kaua‘i,” William Aila Jr., chair of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said in a press release.

Kolohe, captured on Kaua‘i in the second week of May, recovered well from a de-hooking procedure at Waikiki Aquarium despite initial concerns he was fighting an infection and pneumonia, according to DLNR.

On May 21, Kolohe, also known as K36, was transported from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i on a U.S. Coast Guard Hercules C-130 airplane and released into the wild. The seal was fitted with temporary tracking tags (cell phone tag and satellite tag) for tracking and follow up if necessary.

Other monk seals recently involved in fish-hook incidents weren’t so lucky.

A necropsy of a seal found dead on Kaua‘i in March revealed a fish hook was lodged in the seal’s esophagus, indicating the seal likely died of trauma from the hook, according to state officials.

Sharkbite, also known as T15M, was captured on O‘ahu in the second week of May, after biting a fish hook. On May 19, Sharkbite was “humanely euthanized” at Waikiki Aquarium due to infection and necrosis of the surgical site and associated deteriorating health.

Sharkbite’s advanced age — at least 27 years old — was probably a factor in his poor recovery after surgery, according to state officials.

“Unfortunately, Sharkbite’s recovery was not successful, increasing the total now to three cases where hooking have been the likely cause of death of monk seals,” said Aila, adding that DLNR wants to partner with fishermen to reduce impacts.

The volunteer network was notified of Sharkbite’s death and many were saddened but understood the seal’s options and condition, according to DLNR. Sharkbite’s remains will be cremated and a memorial ceremony will be held at White Plains on O‘ahu in the near future.

Kaiwi, a 9-month-old female, had two recent encounters with fish hooks. She was captured May 5 on O‘ahu’s Rabbit Island, de-hooked and released back into the wild the same day. A week later, Kaiwi, also known as RK96, was hooked again, but has since eluded capture.

“We have stepped up surveillance looking for Kaiwi and we believe she is still around O‘ahu,” DLNR states. “The good news is that she has been sighted out in the water acting normally, but just not hauling out in a place where she can be safely captured.”

DLNR plans to bring Kaiwi to Waikiki Aquarium for an X-ray and proceed with de-hooking or other treatment as necessary.

Aila said that handling hookings has been “very labor and resource intensive” and would not be possible without significant support and leadership from several partners.

Visit www.fpir.noaa.gov to view guidelines that describe actions fishermen can take to avoid seal hookings and entanglement.

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