At dawn, about the only people at Kaimana Beach were folks from Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR) and a couple of television crews. HMAR is the organization that mobilizes volunteers to watch over resting monk seals.
On Tuesday, the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) announced officers are maintaining an around-the-clock presence to protect people and seals, where for the third time in five years a mother seal is nursing a pup, prior to it weaning.
“We’re definitely glad to get the added support from the state,” said HMAR president Jon Gelman. “We look forward to working with the DOCARE officers on the scene as we watch over Rocky and her pup together. We couldn’t do what we do without the joint efforts of our partners and the community here.”
The stepped-up enforcement is a result of potential conflicts between Rocky and her three-week old pup. Nursing monk seals moms are highly protective of their pups and the potential for someone getting hurt or the seals being disturbed is high on this typically popular strand of sand and in the adjacent highly-used nearshore waters.
While discussing the details of the 50-yard cordon, DOCARE will enforce, with O‘ahu Branch Chief John Silberstein, volunteers on-duty say they really appreciate the extra help. They added that most people are completely respectful of the guidance they provide and having officers on the beach to deal with anyone who ignores the rules is a significant help.
While they talked, the monk seal pup headed from his mom’s side and into the water. As Rocky began barking and eventually headed into the ocean with her pup, HMAR volunteers began adjusting the signage and ropes on the beach, as they do whenever the seals change locations.
DOCARE is in the process of establishing coverage schedules for both land-based officers and officers on jet skis to establish the 150-foot cordon in the water when the seals are out swimming. They’ll be working closely with the HMAR volunteers to ensure that whenever the cordon is adjusted on the beach or in the water, people stay outside it.
In announcing the added enforcement on Wednesday, DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla said,
“Government agencies have maintained both official and volunteer presence and signage since the pup’s birth, but these have failed to deter a number of people from approaching the monk seals, creating a dangerous situation. We know people want to see them, but for everyone’s safety and the protection of the seals we will have a 24-hour law enforcement presence at Kaimana until the pup weans in two-to-three weeks.”