NOAA Fisheries Removes Aggressive Monk Seal KE18 from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI)
KE18 at the Waikiki Aquarium
In 2010 and 2011 NOAA Fisheries staff began to observe a nine-year old monk seal, KE18, attacking newly weaned and juvenile seals at Kure Atoll in the NWHI; causing injuries including lacerations, scratches and puncture wounds on this critical component of the monk seal population . KE18 seriously injured 10 of the 13 pups and an additional three juveniles during the 2010 and 2011 field camps on Kure Atoll. When KE18 transited to Midway Atoll there were two unexplained deaths during his time there.
Once the frequency and severity of injuries was noted, NOAA Fisheries staff engaged in non-lethal actions designed to interrupt KE18's attacks by making noises, closely approaching him, etc). When these interventions did not change KE18's behavior, NOAA conducted a rigorous decision process and determined that removal of KE18 from the NWHI was necessary. Late in the summer of 2011 NOAA explored the options available for removal of KE18 as permitted by its Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act permits and concluded that lethal removal was the only available option at that time.
A team of NOAA Fisheries researchers, scientists and a veterinarian spent seven days at Kure in early August 2011 searching for KE18, but although the seal was spotted three times, he never presented himself in a place that would allow the team to safely capture and humanely euthanize him.
In January 2012 KE18 was spotted at Midway Atoll and marked with a non-toxic dye making him easily identifiable. On January 29, KE18 was captured at Midway Atoll by a small team of NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff and transported to Honolulu by a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 plane that was coincidentally at Midway on a rescue mission for an injured commercial seaman. KE18 arrived on Oahu on January 30 and was transported to a holding pool at the Waikiki Aquarium where he is temporarily being held.
2010 and Spring/Summer 2011
KE18 observed injuring newly weaned pups and juvenile seals on Kure Atoll.
In response to the high frequency and severity of male aggression related injuries and mortality at Kure Atoll in 2011, NOAA Fisheries determined intervention was necessary.
Through detailed observation and documentation of individual male seals involved in aggressive attacks on other seals in 2010-2011, KE18 and one other seal became candidates for removal from the NWHI population. Ultimately it was decided only KE18 was a candidate for removal.
July 30, 2011
NOAA Fisheries departed on R/V Oscar Elton Sette to retrieve field camp personnel and a small team of NOAA Fisheries staff spent seven days on Kure Atoll searching for KE18. Although spotted three times, KE18 never presented himself in a place where it was safe to capture and euthanize him.
January 9, 2012
KE18 was spotted at Midway Atoll and marked for easy identification.
January 28, 2012
A NOAA Fisheries team, including a veterinarian, left for Midway on a USFWS Flight.
January 29, 2012
NOAA Fisheries staff located and successfully captured KE18, with assistance from USFWS, and transported the seal to Oahu via a U.S. Coast Guard medevac flight.
January 30, 2012
KE18 is currently under quarantine and resting comfortably in a temporary holding pool at the Waikiki Aquarium.
Late February or early March 2012
KE18 is tentatively scheduled to be transported to Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/DIR/dir_KE18home.html