- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A Hawaiian monk seal is back at sea after a life-saving surgery removed a fishing hook it swallowed.

The 14-year-old, 400-pound seal known as Benny was seen off Makua Beach in early October with a fishing line hanging out of his mouth, Hawaii Public Radio (http://bit.ly/2dI9PT8 ) reported. Scientist Charles Littnan recognized that as a sign that Benny might have swallowed a hook.

“We grabbed him, put him in the cage and brought him to the regional center where we work,” said Littnan, a lead researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Program. “And we found that it was sort of our worst fears.”

X-rays showed that a barbed circle fishing hook was wedged deeply into Benny’s stomach wall. The seal was immediately given surgery, which was followed by a couple weeks of recovery and a steady diet of 10 pounds of fish per day.

“Suturing all of that stuff up for an animal that has to swim, it’s a scary situation,” said Littnan. “These animals have an amazing capacity to heal, so if you can make it through the surgery you’re probably in a good place.”

Benny was taken back to the beach, where a group of scientists and volunteers cheered as he hauled himself to the water.

This was Benny’s fifth hook-related injury.

“Hopefully we will not be seeing any more hooks from Benny,” said Littnan. “Because five hooks is five too many.”

There are 10 or 11 seal hookings each year, and most occur on the mouth and can be removed on the beach. NOAA is urging fishermen to consider barbless hooks, which are easier to remove.

“With the barbed hook, you’re ensuring that more trauma is going to be done,” said Littnan.

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Information from: KHPR-FM, http://hawaiipublicradio.com

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