Maui News

Post-Mortem Exams Reveal Two Hawaiian Monk Seals Likely Drowned in Lay Nets

February 3, 2021, 10:28 AM HST
* Updated February 3, 10:29 AM
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  • Two Hawaiian monk seals found dead on Kauaʻi in 2020 are believed to have drowned while entangled in lay gill nets. Photo Courtesy: NOAA Fisheries
  • The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement has been increasing patrols to remove unattended nets that can entangle and drown Hawaiian monk seals. Photo Courtesy: NOAA Fisheries
  • Hawaiian monk seal. Photo Courtesy: NOAA Fisheries.
  • Three Hawaiian monk seals were found dead on Kauaʻi last year, with drowning believed to be cause of death in two of the cases. Photo Courtesy: NOAA Fisheries

Post-mortem exams and information gathered by law enforcement officials have led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conclude that drowning while becoming entangled in lay gill nets was the likely cause of death of at least two of three Hawaiian monk seals found dead on Kaua‘i last year, according to a news release from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

NOAA believes the seals found in September and November likely died after becoming entangled in lay gill nets. The third seal found in December was severely decomposed, making it difficult to determine the cause of death. 

While the vast majority of fishers in Hawaiʻi continue to practice safe, sustainable and pono fishing methods, some continue to fish recklessly, with devastating impact on native and endangered species. This is particularly common with lay gill net fishers, the news release said.  

DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources rules require that a gill net used in the lay net fishing method not be left unattended for more than 30 minutes after being set and should be physically checked in its entirety two hours after its initial set. The best rule of thumb for lay net fishing is to always be present and vigilant when nets are set. 

Because interactions between monk seals and lay nets continue to escalate, officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement have been increasing patrols, resulting in the removal of more unattended nets across the state.  

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“These monk seal deaths are, yet again, terrible and unnecessary losses,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said. “Monofilament (made from nylon fishing line) lay nets are imported modern fishing gear that is indiscriminate and deadly and have been banned elsewhere in the U.S.  We are in discussions regarding how best to ensure seals and turtles are protected given ongoing drownings in lay nets.” 

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Division of Aquatic Resources Administrator Brian Neilson added: “Our state resources, both the fish we use for food and recreation, and the rare and endangered species that call these waters home are important parts of the history, traditions and living resources we cherish. It is important that we find the balance to respect all our marine life. That means following respectful and logical regulations put in place to protect all resources both now and into the future.” 

Anyone encountering an illegal or unattended lay net, or observing seals in close proximity to nets, please report it immediately via the free DLNRTip app or by calling 808-643-DLNR (3567). 

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