Suspicious circumstances in 3rd monk seal death - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Suspicious circumstances in 3rd monk seal death

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Killing a monk seal is a Class C felony punishable with up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Killing a monk seal is a Class C felony punishable with up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
William Aila, Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources William Aila, Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources
Molokai resident and activist Walter Ritte Molokai resident and activist Walter Ritte

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another Hawaiian monk seal has died under suspicious circumstances. A juvenile male monk seal was found dead at Pilaa Beach on Kauai's North Shore Monday. The seal had wounds indicating it was the victim of foul play and an x-ray revealed a foreign object in its carcass. A necropsy is being performed to determine the exact cause of death.

"It appears that the wounds are very very suspicious involving some sort of implement or some sort of firearm. We're not sure. We're waiting for the necropsy," said William Aila, Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

It is the third suspicious monk seal death in the past three months. Two seals died under suspicious circumstances on Molokai late last year.

"We hope to stop this trend, and the only way we can do that is to make people understand we need to get along and that there is no reason for anyone to go out and kill a monk seal, absolutely no reason," Aila said.

The Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species protected by both state and federal law.

Aila said there are an estimated 1,000 to 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals living in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but because of competition for food and attacks by hungry sharks, their numbers are falling by about 4% a year.

There are, according to Aila, close to 200 monk seals living in the main Hawaiian Islands, and while their numbers have been going up by about 4% a year they now face an increased threat from man.

"If we don't stop it, we are going to be the cause of the death of these seals and the extinction of these seals," said Molokai resident and activist Walter Ritte who was on Oahu Wednesday to participate in a radio station discussion about monk seals.

Ritte said the seals sometimes clash with fishermen as they compete for catch and he suspects it is fishermen who are killing seals.

"I can't speak for any other island," Ritte said. "I can speak for Molokai. We all talk story over there. It's a small island. So where you find the seals with the heads smashed is only places where fishermen and hunters go. So if you put all of that together, all of the talk that's going around, it's the young people. And when you talk to the young people (young fishermen) they say, ‘It's just an invasive species. And I walk all this distance and then I get there and the seal is bothering me. They are in our nets. They are in the moi hole. They are invasive species. Kill them,'" Ritte said.

In 2010 the state made killing a Hawaiian Monk Seal a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Anyone with information about the deaths is asked to call NOAA at 1-800-853-1964 or the DLNR at 808-873-3990.

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