This is young T12, a Monk Seal Pup born at Larsen's Beach on Kauai April 2010. I photographed T12 up and down Aliomanu Bay in late October. On this morning, the young seal had been trying to come ashore after a night of solo feasting, no doubt on lobster and other invertebrates or maybe a fish or two.......... T12 was being bounced on the head and body by a large plastic fishing buoy. The size of a bowling ball, the buoy is one of hundreds of thousands that break away from mile after mile of discarded debris floating in the world's oceans.
I walked around T12 and grabbed the buoy just as it was about to slip into the current and round the point and wash away into distant and remote Papa'a Bay. As if a gift for doing so, when I turned back to photograph the seal for identification, I looked to my feet and there, inches from the snout of the seal was a beautiful Hebrew Cone........a treasure to share with kids, just like this true life story.
Monk Seals love nothing more than to come ashore and bask in the air, partly to simply sleep, but also to avoid tiger sharks. Avoiding predators has been something they have had to deal with for all the centuries of their existence. Harpoons almost wiped them out during whaling days. Now, they must deal with the PCB/PBDE and other chemical threats like orcas and other marine mammals..........And, the threat from plastics is not just a hindering hastle like the buoy bouncing T12 around that morning.
Plastics wash ashore on all beaches on earth. Out at Pihemanu, I observed hundreds of dead albatross, killed directly by plastic. I also listened to biologist, Brenda Becker, mourn the decline of Monk Seal populations. One problem is genetics and the monk seal population size, post human arrival in their midst........But a much larger problem is the no doubt unseen deaths due to plastics, fish nets, cargo nets, and the many pollutants we directly or indirectly pour into the ocean each second of the day. (Note: The above photo of an entangle pinniped, courtesy Dr. Hans Van Weenen of the Netherlands; photo source: C.W. Fowler of the National Marine Mammal Lab, Seattle, Washington USA).
Do Monk Seals matter? That is another way of asking my earlier question about their major breeding grounds within Papahanaumokuakea. Add to this list........Do sea turtles, spinner dolphins, or mahi mahi matter?
Help us find ways of redirecting plastics from the sea. And check out a recent video at :
http://tinyurl.com/2fbtruh submitted by Vicki Osis.......Thanks Vicki! And Scuttlebutt/NMEA.
Project SOAR and Friends of Fred are now sending Teaching Packets around the world. The packets include An Original Fred, A Friend of Fred such as an orca, seal, or other animal in need of your help, a traveling journal, gifts from NOAA and the USFWS, along with activities, suggested projects, and links to schools and other community minded places of education.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org of find a Fred somewhere in England, Switzerland, Australia, Hawaii, the Mainland USA and join Fred and Friends in their many water related projects.