Saving Seals

KMSW looks for tourist support

By: Marty Wentzel

If your clients saw a monk seal on the beach, would they know what to do?

“Ninety percent of the time, people keep a safe distance from the animals,” said Tim Robinson, projects chairman for the Kauai Monk Seal Watch (KMSW) program. “We’re here because of the other 10 percent.”

Robinson recently partnered with Sheraton Kauai Resort to teach visitors about monk seals. For 45 minutes, KMSW volunteers show photos and share information about the endangered species.

“We want guests to enjoy seeing such a wonderful species, but at the same time, they must respect the animals,” Robinson said. “We need to balance the visitors’ needs with those of the animals.”

With 1,300 Hawaiian monk seals spread across the islands, Kauai plays home to about 25. Seals often sun themselves on Poipu Beach near Sheraton Kauai.

“They need time on the beach to rest,” said Robinson. “When we upset their sleep, we’re threatening their lives.”

Sheraton Kauai is promoting the new monk seal education program to its guests and Poipu visitors.

“Sheraton is a great partner,” he said. “As soon as a seal hauls up on the beach, the staff puts up signs and ropes around it and calls me. We can’t keep the seals here without the tourism industry’s support.”

Robinson got involved in Kauai monk seal protection in 2000, during a birth on the beach in Poipu. KMSW grew out of that experience.

“I wanted to do a program in the schools,” he said. “For the past five years, we have been teaching fourth-graders about monk seals. If we can reach one grade level per year, over 12 years we will have educated an entire generation.”

By expanding into the visitor industry, Robinson hopes to take his message to an even higher level.

“Even if just one guest shows up at a program, that’s one more person enlightened,” he said.


Kauai Monk Seal Education Program
Sheraton Kauai Resort’s Point Lounge
Free each Wednesday
at 6 p.m.