HONOLULU — State and federal officials are appealing to the public to be on the lookout for distressed Hawaiian monk seals after one known as Honey Girl was found with a hook embedded in her cheek and nearly died.
Charles Littman, lead scientist for the federal Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, said the tagged seal was captured by federal fisheries officials on Nov. 17 and was close to death. She had an ulua hook lodged in her cheek that had been there for at least three weeks.
The seal was taken to the Waikiki Aquarium and later to the Waikiki Zoo for reconstructive surgery.
“She was on her last legs,” Littman said.
So far this year, state and federal officials responded to 14 Hawaiian monk seal hooking incidents, including three that ended in death.
Littnan and state Land Board Chairman William Aila held a news conference Monday to encourage people to report any monk seal that is skinny, appears malnourished or has a physical problem.
Aila said the tagged seal, which has given birth to seven known pups, had a severely swollen mouth and lost one-third of her tongue.
The majority of Hawaiian monk seals listed as an endangered species by the federal government live in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They were hunted nearly to extinction in the early 1900s.
Federal officials said the population of Hawaiian monk seals, totaling fewer than 1,200, is declining at about 4 percent annually.