Public urged to stay away as monk seal, pup linger on popular Waikiki beach

A popular Waikiki beach is drawing even more attention with its high-profile guests.

Signs are posted and a portion of Kaimana Beach is currently roped off to keep bystanders away from a Hawaiian monk seal and her pup.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the pup was born at the beach overnight, and both seals are doing well.

This is the first time the mother, nicknamed Rocky, has given birth on Oahu. Her previous nine pups were born on Kauai.

“It’s possible that she just didn’t have time to make it to Kauai before birth was happening,” said Angela Amlin, Hawaiian monk seal recovery coordinator.

Beachgoers can expect to see mom and pup for the next five to seven weeks, and officials urge the public to give the seals space.

“The first thing we are trying to avoid is disturbance to the point where mom leaves the pup. The pup needs lots of nutrition within the next five to seven weeks, so it’s really important that mom stays the whole time,” Amlin said. “At that point, she will leave and the pup will remain on the beach for another maybe four to six weeks. It’s hard to say until the pup is comfortable enough to venture out in the water and forage on its own.”

The distance isn’t just for the seals’ safety, but the public’s as well. A snorkeler off Kauai was injured when a monk seal became protective of her pup.

“The mom actually swam out and left the baby and bit the snorkeler over her face,” said Kristen Kelly, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources Marine Wildlife program assistant.

Our cameras were rolling as Rocky became protective when a plastic bag floated nearby.

“A nursing mom can be really protective of her young, so swimmers and snorkelers needs to be vigilant,” Amlin said.

Hawaiian monk seals are protected by federal and state laws. There are only 1,400 monk seals left. Three hundred of them are in the main Hawaiian islands.

If someone is caught harassing a monk seal, violators could face a fine between $1,000 and $10,500.

“It’s really important in these situations to stay behind designated boundaries,” Amlin said. “There will be ropes. There will be signs. There will be volunteers, lifeguards or other enforcement folks on site.”

DLNR’s viewing tips:

  • Please stay behind any ropes or fencing and follow instructions from personnel stationed on the beach.
  • Enjoy seeing and photographing these magnificent creatures from outside the safety perimeter, clearly marked by signs and ropes.
  • Hawaiian monk seals, even pups, are large powerful animals and can bite if they feel threatened. Keep a safe distance away.
  • Anyone who witnesses someone harassing or harming the seals may make a report to the DLNR Enforcement line at 643-DLNR (643-3567) or the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.
  • In addition, harassing these mammals is against both federal and state law. So please do your part to help our Hawaiian monk seals thrive and survive.

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