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Seal ordeal has officials urging a fishhook switch


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 06, 2009

An 11-day ordeal might be over for Kermit the Hawaiian monk seal—who had an embedded fishing hook removed from his mouth Sunday—but the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to prevent another mammal from suffering the same torment.

To make it easier for a seal to unhook itself, fishermen should use barbless hooks instead of the type of 3-inch ulua hook that was stuck in Kermit's mouth since April 22, urged David Schofield, the agency's marine mammal response coordinator. Fishermen can either file or bend down the barb in their ulua hooks, or call 983-3265 to get free barbless hooks, he said.

Kermit—nicknamed for the green algae once covering his body—only had a bit of swelling left yesterday as he sunbathed at his favorite spot on Queen's Surf Beach in Waikiki.

Volunteer D.B. Dunlap, an eight-year seal tracker who knows Kermit's habits intimately, helped Schofield and three other men Sunday afternoon when Kermit and his steady girlfriend, Irma, finally swam onto Nimitz Beach in Barbers Point.

Calling it “;an 11-day ordeal,”; Dunlap said Kermit had previously tried hauling himself onto the sand several times, but “;a 10-foot fishing line was attached to the hook. It would catch under his chest and jerk on the side of his face when he tried to haul out. It hurt too much, so he would go back into the water.”;

On Sunday the fishing line was “;over his shoulder, out of the way,”; which finally enabled a weakened Kermit to swim ashore, he said. The team had to tackle and confine Kermit with a big net before using bolt cutters on the hook.

“;She (Irma) was 10 feet away from the actual capture and only left when we released Kermit, who immediately galumphed into the water,”; Dunlap added.

Schofield said there have been five “;de-hookings”; of the endangered seal species so far this year on Oahu and Kauai, and nine statewide in 2008. To volunteer as a first responder, visit www.monkseal.org.