Sharing The Environment With Hawaiian Monk Seals
Sharing the Environment with Hawaiian Monk Seals
If you are fortunate enough to see a seal on the beach or in the water in Hawaii, please remember to give these animals some space for your safety and their stewardship. The small Hawaiian monk seal population in the main Hawaiian Islands is currently stable (neither growing or falling) and we are lucky to have the opportunity to view monk seals.
It is not uncommon to share the beach with a monk seal. However, it is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. Responsible wildlife viewing helps to ensure your safety and the animals’ long-term survival in the wild.
Marine animals such as monk seals, sea turtles, dolphins and whales are part of the identity of our islands and hold a special place in the minds and hearts of the people of Hawaii. While viewing marine animals, you should ensure that your actions do not disturb the animals you are observing.
- It is natural for monk seals to come ashore or “haul out” on the beach for long periods of time. Please give them space so they may rest, molt, give birth and rear their pups. Do not attempt to push them back into the water, pour water on them or wake them up by approaching too closely.
- Roped off areas or signs that have been placed on the beach by Hawaii Marine Animal Response (HMAR) or other authorized personnel are erected for your safety and to minimize animal disturbance so please stay behind any ropes or signs. If HMAR, law enforcement or other NOAA-authorized personnel are on scene (identifiable by uniform or ID), please follow their recommendations and instructions for safe and responsible viewing.
- If no HMAR, law enforcement or NOAA-authorized personnel are on scene it is recommended you stay 50 feet from monk seals, 150 feet if you encounter a monk seal mom with pup.
- If a seal approaches you, move away to avoid interaction. If you are in the ocean, move away from the animal or cautiously exit the water if possible.
- Pets, especially dogs, can pose a risk to monk seals. Please keep dogs on a leash when in the presence of monk seals to avoid injury or disease transmission for both seals and pets.
- In the ocean, monk seals may exhibit inquisitive behavior. Approaching or attempting to play or swim with them may alter their behavior and their ability to fend for themselves in the wild. In addition, a monk seal “playing” with a human can inadvertently cause injuries or even death to the interacting human.
- If you encounter a seal while fishing, take a short break or change locations. This way you won’t risk loss of your bait or tackle and the seal won’t get hooked. Fishing with a barbless circle hook also minimizes hooking injuries. Please follow all applicable fishing and net use rules. If you do experience an actual or potential fishing interaction with these animals please call our hotline at (888) 256-9840. You do not need to give your name. Guidelines have been developed to minimize the impacts of fishery interactions with monk seals (see below).
- Cautiously move away if you observe the following monk seal behaviors indicating it has been disturbed:
- Female attempting to shield a pup with her body or by her movements.
- Vocalization (growling) or rapid movement away from the disturbance.
- Sudden awakening from sleep on the beach.
Review NOAA’s Fisheries Interactions Guidelines: Download