Public Urged to Avoid Contact with Hawaiian Monk Seal
By Wendy Osher
Maui’s coastal community is being advised to avoid interacting with a Hawaiian Monk Seal that has been frequenting the West Maui shoreline. The endangered seal, known to researchers as “RO42” has been observed swimming closely to surfers & divers, and approaching people on shore.
Officials say the seal’s attempt to seek human interaction is unnatural, and if encouraged, poses a threat to her chances of surviving in the wild.
Authorities believe the behavior stems from an incident off the Big Island where spear fishermen had fed the seal as a juvenile. To protect public safety and help the seal maintain its wild tendencies, the public is asked not to play with, pet or engage with Hawaiian monk seals. Avoiding eye contact and maintaining a distance of at least 150 feet is also advised.
The public should report seal sightings to the NOAA Marine Mammal hot-line at 888-256-9840.
(Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2008 © Wendy Osher, MauiNOW.com, Pacific Radio Group)
(Photo Captions: 1. Photo courtesy: Bill Lewis 2. Photo courtesy: Ananda Stone)