The Hawaii Tourism Authority today sent out an email advising visitors to temporarily avoid Kaimana Beach in Waikiki as a mother monk seal nurses her pup in the area.
This Hawaiian monk seal, identified by wildlife officials as RH58, is known as Rocky to the public who see him often.
Rocky gave birth to her 14th pup, PO8, in Kaimana Beach on July 9, and the pair are expected to stay in the area until at least mid-August, when the pup is usually weaned.
HTA explained that on July 24, “a nearby swimmer came to the attention of the seals and the mother seal pursued the swimmer – a perceived threat to her pup – and the encounter resulted in injury to the swimmer.
On Thursday, the Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources began enforcing a 50-meter or 150-foot cordon around the two endangered monk seals after videos emerged showing bathers crowding around them.
“For your safety and theirs, stay alert and keep a respectful distance from these endangered animals and other protected marine species in Hawaii,” HTA said in its email. “If you are in an area where mother seals with pups have been spotted, please stay at least 150 feet away from marine animals on land and in the water. These tips will protect you and our endangered marine animals. , which are protected by state and federal laws.
HTA continued, “We encourage the public to visit one of Oahu’s many other amazing beaches during this time to avoid interactions with the monk seal and her pup and ask for industry kokua to spread the word.”
Wildlife experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommend giving monk seal mother-pup pairs a distance of 150 feet both on land and in the water, as mothers can be very territorial and protective of their pups. .
Even better, according to NOAA, is to choose another beach to avoid interactions with mother seals.
The DLNR said on Saturday that no citations or arrests had been made three days after the 24-hour cordon enforcement began at Kaimana Beach.
With only about 1,500 Hawaiian monk seals remaining in the wild, pinnipeds are one of the most endangered seal species in the world. They are protected by state law as well as the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Under state law, harassing or harming a Hawaiian monk seal is considered a Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment and fines.
In recent years, visitors have been fined for slapping or touching monk seals resting on shores after videos of their actions were posted on social media.
The DLNR said that exceeding the 150ft limit would, however, be considered ‘frustration of a government operation’ and classified as a misdemeanour.
When the PO8 pup is weaned, authorities will likely move it to a more remote location away from humans, as they did with two monk seal pups born at Kaimana Beach.