Maui News


March 3, 2009, 10:28 AM HST
* Updated March 4, 10:51 AM
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seal_01The U.S. Coast Guard documented a vessel suspected of illegally fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands over the weekend. The coast guard gathered evidence from the 79-foot U.S. flagged fishing boat, saying its long-line gear was in the water approximately three miles inside the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. The evidence was forwarded to NOAA’s Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.

The coast guard discovered the vessel while on a mission to transport an endangered Hawaiian monk seal to the remote island chain, because of its overly friendly behavior with people on Lanai.

NOAA scientists said that releasing the in the uninhabited Monument will help it return to more “natural behavior patterns.”

The seal was loaded by Kukui crew members in Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009.

The monument falls within the Fourteenth Coast Guard District’s area of responsibility and is one of the most remote areas of the world. There are approximately 60 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel and contractors at Midway and a handful of State of Hawaii and FWS scientists on other small islands, but the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are mostly uninhabited.

“We are deeply committed to good stewardship of our oceans and protecting the rich and fragile ecosystems of this unique part of the world,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jay Caputo, the Fourteenth Coast Guard District’s fisheries enforcement officer.

“Preservation of our fragile coral reef environment is paramount to the Pacific’s survival and the U.S. Coast Guard is committed to detecting violators in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” said Caputo.

On June 15, 2006, former President Bush signed legislation creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (re-named the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on March 2, 2007). It is one of the world’s largest fully-protected marine conservation areas.

(Posted by Wendy OSHER © 2009) (Information and Photo courtesy: USCG 14th District/Lt. j.g. Tim Dolan)

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