KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - An endangered Hawaiian monk seal has recently been spotted swimming around boats at the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor on the Big Island, concerning state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials.
"It would be a tragedy for this seal to be struck by a boat or propeller or to get caught up in netting or marine debris," said Suzanne Case, chairperson of the DLNR, in a statement.
For the past week, B-18 has been feeding on fish scraps that fisherman are throwing overboard. Case said this is a major concern because seals that are fed, even unintentionally by discarded fish scraps, start to associate people with food and seek out human interactions, dangerous for both seals and people.
"They are wild creatures and we want to keep them wild," Case said.
The DLNR also reminds people that it is against the law to dispose of fish scraps in state waters. Case said all small boat harbors have receptacles to throw out scraps and other forms of trash.
The DLNR is also in the process of improving communication efforts by posting reminder signs around harbors as well as including reminders in monthly billing statements to boat owners who have moorings at the harbor.
"This is not the only place where this has happened and it is not the first time it's happened," Case said. "With fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild, it's critical that everyone does their part to protect these creatures and show them our kokua."