A Hawaiian monk seal was transported from Oahu to Kauai by U.S. Coast Guard crews working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point transported the seal to Kauai where it will be re-introduced into the ocean after recovering from surgery removing an infected right eye.
The seal was previously found onshore in Kauai and in critical condition. She was transported to a NOAA facility at Ford Island for surgery. NOAA surgeons had to remove her right eye because of a serious, life-threatening infection, according to the Coast Guard.
“Our Coast Guard men and women take pride in our unique operational ability to help recover and maintain our nation’s marine protected species,” said Eric Roberts, marine mammal response coordinator for the 14th Coast Guard District. “The transport of this critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal showcases the multiagency efforts that are being coordinated to ensure this species is around for future generations.”
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world with an estimated population of only 1,200. Part of the true seal family, they are one of only two remaining monk seal species, according to the Coast Guard.
Safeguarding marine mammals falls under the Coast Guard’s living marine resources mission, one of the service’s 11 statutory missions. The nation’s waterways and their ecosystems are vital to the country’s economy and health. This includes ensuring the country’s marine protected species are provided the protection necessary to help their populations recover to healthy, sustainable levels.
The Coast Guard partners with NOAA on many living marine resources missions in Hawaii to protect endangered marine mammals, including humpback whales. Operation Kohola Guardian involves coordinated joint Coast Guard, NOAA and State of Hawaii patrols of the National Marine Sanctuary during the peak humpback whale season months of January through March.
The 14th Coast Guard District is home to four Marine National Monuments and two National Marine Sanctuaries, more than any other region in the United States.