NOAA 2004-PIRO-03
Contact: Delores Clark
NOAA News Releases 2004
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Following recent reports of people interacting with a Hawaiian monk seal at Lahaina Harbor, Maui, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is reminding recreational boaters, fishermen, swimmers and other beach-goers that it is against state and federal laws to feed or harass endangered Hawaiian monk seals. It is harmful to the animals and dangerous to people. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“We have heard that the seal follows boats in the harbor and well-intentioned people may be feeding it,” said Margaret Akamine, protected species coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office. “They need to know that the consequences of habituating the seal to free handouts can be dangerous. The seal may become aggressive while begging for food and may bite someone. Changing the natural behavior of the seal by feeding it may also decrease its ability to survive on its own. It does more harm than good.” The seal’s presence may also disrupt harbor operations such as boat launching or landing.

People may tend to forget that marine mammals are just like other wild animals and can be aggressive. One of the best ways that people can help protect the health and welfare of Hawaiian monk seals is to observe the animals at a respectful distance of at least 50 yards and to refrain from swimming with or feeding them.

If an injured seal is observed, people should call the toll-free NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Hotline at
1- 888-256-9840, a 24-hour reporting number for marine mammal emergencies. If a violation of the prohibition against feeding or harassment is observed, it should be reported to NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources, and the habitat on which they depend, including the sustainable use of fishery resources through scientific research, management and enforcement.

NOAA is also dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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