KAILUA-KONA — A BOLO — be on the lookout — has been issued for Hawaiian monk seal Manuiwa as officials at Ke Kai Ola try to track down the weaner who in recent days has been spotted with a hook in her lip.
The 9-month-old monk seal was first seen with a hook embedded in and mono-filament line trailing from her right cheek/lip area on Monday off the Kona Coast, said Dr. Claire Simeone, director of The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kailua-Kona.
Additional reports of the hooked seal came in from the public on Tuesday and Wednesday, however, staff from the hospital has yet to observe for itself Manuiwa, she said. All the sightings have been confined to an area between Ke Kahakai State Park and Honokohau Harbor in North Kona.
“We’ve been trying to get out and observe her the past couple of days, but we haven’t been able to find her at her normal spots,” said Simeone, adding that teams dispatched after the center received reports have also been unsuccessful.
“They can’t get out there before she gets back in the water,” said Simeone.
Though the three reports indicate the hook is stuck in Manuiwa’s right cheek/lip area, a hook can be life-threatening to a monk seal, particularly if it is ingested or swallowed, said Simeone.
“Our immediate goal is to assess how she is doing,” Simeone said. “Other than that (the hook and line), she’s in good body condition and we just want to make sure she continues to stay that way.”
According to NOAA’s Monk Seal Research Program, the “big three” threats facing monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands are toxoplasmosis, trauma, and interactions with shorecasting fishing gear and lay gill nets.
Manuiwa was born Feb. 8 at Mahaiula Bay to RA20, granddaughter of Honey Girl, a well-known seal on Oahu identified as R5AY that’s raised numerous pups and even inspired a book. Manuiwa is identified as RK26.
She is the first successful weaning of a monk seal pup on Hawaii Island since 2013 when Kamilo, a male, was successfully weaned by RW34, also known as Waimanu, a female born in 2008 at Waimanu Valley.
An estimated 300 monk seals called the main Hawaiian Islands home in 2017. An additional 1,100 live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, according to the Monk Seal Research Program, which will release its 2018 population update early next year.
If members of the public see Manuiwa, they are encouraged not to engage but rather to ignore the monk seal and immediately call The Marine Mammal Center’s hotline (808) 987-0765 to report the sighting.