Updated: Jul 3
We first saw RL72, an endangered male juvenile Hawaiian monk seal, when he hauled out on a north shore Maui beach in November of 2021. It is uncommon to see a new (to us) seal on Maui, so it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. To make it even more exciting, there were two other seals on the beach with him! After watching seals for six years on Maui, that was the first time we ever saw three seals together on the same beach. It was an amazing site and helped confirm our suspicions that the seal population in the main Hawaiian Islands was growing. See Hawaiian Monk Seal Population Surpasses 1,500.
We never saw him again but on March 30, 2022 members of the public spotted him on Kapalua Oneloa Beach, the other side of the island from where we saw him. He was observed with several feet of microfilament coming from his mouth. This is a good indication that the seal may have ingested a fishing hook – a life threatening situation. Members of NOAA Fisheries and DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) responded and were able to use crowding boards to direct RL72 into a cage meant for this type of situation.
The cage and seal (about 400 lbs) had to be hand carried off the beach to a truck where it was transported to DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources facility. He was kept there overnight, and the next day was flown by the Coast Guard from Maui to Ke Kai Ola (monk seal hospital) on Hawaiʻi Island.
RL72 received surgery on April 7, 2022 and the hook was successfully removed! He spent the next two weeks in recovery and was release on April 21, 2022 in Hawaii Island waters. RL72 was equipped with a GPS tracker and has a temporary bleach mark on her side with the letters “HI”.
She may not stay near Hawaii Island as seals readily swim between islands, so she could very well end up back on Maui. All seals on the beach should be reported, but in this case it has extra importance. If you see a seal with the letters “HI” on her side, please call the state hotline of 888-256-9840. Image credited to NOAA Fisheries.
UPDATE JUNE 2022: RL72 is spotted on Maui again. Read all about it and see surgical scars, GPS tracker and more in our picture gallery.
See our Monk Seal and Hawaii Fine Art collections. A portion of all sales goes to benefit endangered Hawaiian monk seals.