New Year's Eve Lifesaving Seal Surgery

January 20, 2015

While many were enjoying the New Year's Eve festivities, a medical team (including 2 veterinarians and a human surgeon) performed a lifesaving surgery to remove a swallowed fishhook from 12-year old adult male seal RE74, also known as Benny. RE74 was born on Kauaʻi in 2002 and is most often observed on Oʻahu and occasionally on Molokaʻi.

RE74 was first reported with fishing line extending from his mouth on December 29th at Kaʻena Point on Oʻahu. A NOAA team was able to locate and catch him the next day through key assistance provided by Monk Seal Foundation volunteers and City and County of Honolulu lifeguards at White Plains Beach, Oʻahu. Because the hook was not visible, RE74 was brought into the monk seal rehabilitation pools at the NOAA facility on Ford Island on Oʻahu for further assessment and treatment. Unfortunately, RE74 had swallowed the hook which had lodged in his stomach, thus necessitating surgical removal. After 16 days of recuperation post-surgery, Benny was released back into the wild at White Plains Beach, near the site where he was captured. He was instrumented to monitor his movements and diving activity post-release. Early indications show he is behaving normally, visiting his usual locations along the southwest coastline of Oʻahu and consistently diving between 60 and 180 feet.

All activities were conducted under NOAA Permit #932-1905-01.

As a reminder, monk seals are endangered, wild animals and people should act responsibly and not approach them. Fishermen are encouraged to avoid fishing when a seal is observed in the area and to use barbless hooks to minimize injury from accidental hookings of seals and other non-target animals, including turtles. Please report all human-seal interactions and hookings/entanglements immediately to (808) 220-7802 or pifsc.monksealsighting@noaa.gov. Timely reporting can improve the chances of survival for a hooked or otherwise compromised seal, and improve NOAA's ability to identify and manage individual seals with repeated human seal interactions and to preserve public safety.

Track of Benny's movements off the Waiʻanae coast of Oʻahu during the first few days post-release. Track and dive profile of Benny's movements off the Waiʻanae coast of Oʻahu during the first few days post-release.
Tracks and dive profiles of Benny's movements off the Waiʻanae coast of Oʻahu during the first few days post-release.