Hawaiian monk seal pups benefit from beach closures

HONOLULU (AP) — Beach park closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic have benefited Hawaiian monk seal pups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Agency researchers said the endangered seals have been able to nurse and rear newborn pups with relatively little disturbance from humans because of Hawaii’s stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

Nine pups have been born in the main Hawaiian islands since the start of 2020, including four on Oahu, three on Molokai and one each on Hawaii island and Kauai.

NOAA does not disclose the exact locations of pups to help protect them.

Although there are fewer people on the beaches, NOAA officials asked the public to remain a respectful distance from marine animals, including monk seals and turtles.

“It’s a marvelous thing to come upon a monk seal mom and pup,” said David Schofield, a NOAA stranding coordinator. “It’s such a treasure to have the monk seal in Hawaii.”