The National Marine Fisheries Service has scheduled hearings this month in Kaunakakai and Kihei to gather public input on a draft programmatic environmental impact statement for its plans to help the recovery of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
The draft document includes alternatives that would in all cases help the seals survive and do no harm to their environment. Proposed actions include:
* Expanded surveys of seal populations using technology such as remote cameras and unmanned, remotely operated aircraft.
* Vaccination studies and potential implementation of vaccines to mitigate infectious diseases.
* Implementation of a de-worming program to improve juvenile monk seal survival.
* Relocating seals to take them away from unmanageable human interactions and transport them between the main Hawaiian Islands and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to improve their survival rates.
* Supplement seal diets at feeding stations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
* Conduct research to develop tools to modify undesirable monk seal contact with people and fishing gear in the main Hawaiian Islands.
* Chemical alteration of aggressive monk seal behavior using a testosterone substance.
The document says a 2007 recovery plan calls for taking action to ensure the seal population stops declining and eventually recovers. However, the success of the alternatives would depend on available funding, it says.
The Kaunakakai hearing is set for Sept. 13 at Hale Mahaolu Home Pumehana. The Kihei hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15 at the Kihei Community Center at 303 E. Lipoa Road.
At both events, an open house is from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and the public hearing is from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The draft environmental study can be found online at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/eis/hawaiianmonkseal.htm.
The study also is available at public libraries in Wailuku, Kihei, Kaunakakai, Honolulu, Hilo, Lihue and Princeville, Kauai.
Written public comments will be accepted until Oct. 17. Those may be submitted to Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Actions PEIS; NOAA NMFS PIRO; 1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110; Honolulu 96814. They also may be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.