The Marine Mammal Center, the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, admitted an endangered Hawaiian monk seal suffering from fishing gear ingestion and moderate malnutrition at its hospital in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.
The juvenile male monk seal, known by researchers as N2, is currently in stable condition.
“The ingested fishing gear clearly impacted this monk seal’s condition and we’re hopeful thanks to a successful procedure, that this animal is on the road to a full recovery,” said Dr. Sophie Whoriskey, the Marine Mammal Center’s Hawaiian monk seal conservation veterinarian. “We’re proud to be able to support patients like N2 as the only partner organization permitted by (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries to treat and rehabilitate Hawaiian monk seals. We will do everything we can to give this endangered animal a second chance to return to his ocean home.”
Hawaiian monk seals suffer from very high rates of entanglement in ocean trash and fishing gear, as well as ingestion of fishing hooks.
During the seal’s initial critical care period, Marine Mammal Center experts stabilized the animal before performing a successful procedure to remove an ingested hook from his stomach. During the procedure, the team also took a series of blood samples and a fecal sample for further analysis.
The center’s veterinary team noted that N2 was moderately malnourished but is alert and quiet. The plan is to slowly begin offering sustainably caught live and dead fish feedings as well as subcutaneous fluids to help boost his nutritional status and hydration in the coming days.
N2 made the trip from Oʻahu to the Marine Mammal Center’s Kona hospital thanks to a combined effort from local responders.
On Jan. 22, NOAA received a report of a seal on the Ka Iwi Coastline with a wire fishing leader and a swivel hanging from its mouth. NOAA Fisheries staff responded to evaluate the seal’s condition, but it was not possible to attempt to remove the gear at the time because of logistical constraints.
Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response then deployed 13 people, for 54 hours, spanning five days to look for and ultimately find the seal Jan. 27 at Hanauma Bay. Trained experts from NOAA and HMAR performed a successful rescue that day, and the response team transported the seal to NOAA’s Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu.
Because of the seal’s condition and need for long-term rehabilitation after the endoscopy procedure, NOAA initiated travel plans to bring the seal to the Marine Mammal Center’s hospital on the Big Island. The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted the seal Jan. 28 as part of training operations.
The public should keep a safe distance from monk seals and report sightings on Hawai‘i Island to the Marine Mammal Center’s response team by calling the 24-hour hotline at 808-987-0765.
Report hooked, stranded or entangled monk seals to the NOAA Fisheries statewide toll-free hotline at 1-888-256-9840.