KAENA POINT, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The race is on to save a young monk seal accidentally hooked by a fisherman off Oahu.
Volunteers searched the Kaena Point area Saturday for the animal with the mark "N-58."
Experts fear the seal, Luana, may have swallowed the large hook, which could be deadly.
"A seal can go from perfectly healthy, get an injury inside, and the next day be on its death bed," said Charles Littman, lead scientist at NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program.
"So we're kind of in a race against time right now to figure out what's going on."
Harming a Hawaiian monk seal is against the law.
But in this case, Littman said the fisherman did the right thing by reporting it right away because now they have a better chance in saving the seal's life.
Littman said the fisherman tried to cut as much of the line as possible to prevent her from becoming entangled.
Still, he says the clock is ticking because it's only a matter of time before Luana's health could soon deteriorate.
"When they swallow it, it can do all sorts of damage. It can puncture holes in the throat and in the stomach which can lead to…death," Littman said.
Little Luana is only about a year old. Littman says "N-58" is bleached on her side for this very reason.
"So with these bleach marks, people can see from a distance when they're in the water or on the land who the seal is," he said.
There are only about 150-200 monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands and each year, about 12 of them are accidentally hooked.
Just like Honey Girl.
In 2012, she was found near death at Sunset Beach with a fish hook in her cheek.
Veterinarians treated her injuries and removed about a third of her tongue. Ten days later she was returned to the ocean near Turtle Bay. Now, she has a little one of her own.
That's why Littman says it is so important to save these seals.
"Saving particularly a young female like this, she's the future of the population and so if we can can't help her, we slide that much closer to extinction."
Littman says Luana frequents Kaena Point and Mokuleia. If you a see a small seal with "N-58" bleached on its side, call 220-7802.