For many years, the most likely places that you might see a Hawaiian monk seal was on the island of Kauai. It is the island closest to their principal feeding grounds in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Nihoa Island to Kure Atoll). They are frequently seen resting on Poipu Beach and on the small beaches along the Na Pali Coast.
In recent years, however, Hawaiian monk seals have been seen on all of the main Hawaiian islands. In May 2009, a Hawaiian monk seal who was given the name of Kermit spent most of a full week basking on the sand at Queen's Beach right in Waikiki. His proximity to popular hotels and surf spots made his haul-out site a popular stop for beach-goers.
So, what should you, as a visitor know when you find a Hawaiian monk seal on the beach? The folks at the Waikiki Improvement Association provided some excellent answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Hawaiian monk seals.
Are they dead on the beach?
Probably not. Monk seals frequently "haul out" on beaches or rocky shorelines to take a break from eating and swimming, or sometimes to nurse their pups.
What do monk seals eat?
Scientists have found monk seals to eat a variety of things including small fish, lobsters, and other crustaceans. Monk seal eat a LOT – an adult male seal can be up to 400 lbs!
Should I try to approach or touch a monk seal?
NO! Try not to disturb the seal, monk seals are known to not be a fan of close contact. It is also illegal to kill, capture, or harass the seal in any way under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. That means things like touching, riding, feeding, tickling, or anything else that would disrupt the seal's natural behavior.