- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - A Hawaiian monk seal that researchers have been studying since its birth has been found dead after getting stuck in a fishing net.

The seal was found last week on the coast of Oahu, KHON-TV reported (https://bit.ly/2rHxbMd ). Beachgoers tried to save the seal but it was too late.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials named the 9-year-old seal Kerby when they began studying it as a baby.

Officials say Kerby was one of about 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals in the world.

Since 1994, five Hawaiian monk seals have died in fishing nets.

“All evidence right now would point that the animal got entangled and drowned,” said Charles Littnan, lead scientist for the NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Program. “Anytime you lose an animal it’s a blow to the people that are out every day, the people that are out trying to protect them. Our program.”

Researchers recently tagged Kerby with a camera to study his behavior, but they were unable to recover the camera or the seal’s body.

“The members of the public who had found the seal had disentangled it, brought the net in, then went to try and recover (Kerby),” Littnan said. “And by that time another seal had come by and was actually being quite defensive.”

Littnan said there is a chance the data from the camera attached to Kerby’s body can still be recovered, “but ultimately the big news is the tragedy of the loss of this valuable seal.”

“It’s situations like this that hopefully make fisherman stop and think, scientists stop and think, make everybody stop and think what can we do better to protect the things that we do and protect the animals that are trying to coexist with us,” Littnan said.

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Information from: KHON-TV, https://khon.com

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