Ocean Watch

By Susan Scott

Monday, June 17, 1996


Wildlife irony:
Protect one species, hurt others

REMEMBER Hondo, the enormous California sea lion who set up housekeeping near Seattle's fish ladders? Wildlife authorities have captured Hondo and two of his fat pals and sent them to Sea World of Florida in Orlando. Two other sea lion trouble-makers remain at large.

The relocating of the most glutinous sea lions from these locks may help the situation briefly but is not a permanent solution. The rich niche left empty by this transfer won't be empty for long.

So what can people do to save the trout? University of Washington engineering students are pondering this question as part of their term projects this year. Some suggestions are:

This problem clearly shows the intricacy of natural systems and how hard it is to fix them once spoiled. We protected one group of animals, sea lions, resulting in another, trout, taking a hit.

In seal news closer to home, the baby monk seal born in April at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe is alive, well and now weaned. The mother nursed the pup for 53 days (the usual is 39 days), then took off, leaving a fat male offspring to fend for himself.

Honolulu's National Marine Fisheries Service biologists have decided to leave the pup at the remote beach where he was born rather than move him to the isolated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The reasoning goes that he came to be there naturally, has plenty of fat to burn while learning to eat, and existing marine mammal and fishing laws should protect him on Oahu.

The most dangerous fishing practice to the pup, and any monk seal, is Hawaii's inshore gill nets. State law requires that anglers inspect such nets at least every two hours. Also, the nets may not stay in one location longer than four hours in any 24-hour period.

Another good reason for leaving Oahu's newest seal where he was born is to give people a chance to see this rare and endangered species. People in Kaneohe Bay are most likely to see the little guy, easy to recognize by the red tags on his rear flippers.

The best way to help this animal is to spread the word that's it's harmful to the animal (and illegal) to approach or otherwise disturb a monk seal. Never feed a seal. If these seals associate humans with food, the animals can get in trouble by approaching fishing boats or divers.

As for humans who want to avoid trouble in the water, the Hawaii Lifeguard Association has started its summer Junior Lifeguard Program. This five-day course teaches teens ocean and beach skills, including an introduction to water safety, CPR, first air and surf-rescue techniques.

The program is open to teens 13 to 17 years old who already have basic swimming skills. The weeklong sessions run through the beginning of August.

The teachers are city lifeguards. I have had the pleasure of watching some of these lifeguards work and teach and was impressed with their skills, professionalism and friendliness.

For information, call 395-3994 (Windward), 924-3313 (Ala Moana) or 695-8967 (Pokai). The North Shore course is already sold out. Suggested donation is $25.



Susan Scott is a marine science writer and author of three books about Hawaii's environment. Her Ocean Watch column appears Monday in the Star-Bulletin.



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