Saving Monk Seals
`Īlioholoikauaua, the Hawaiian monk seal, is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Since the 1950s its population has dropped to about 1,300 animals and is continuing to decline. Scientists estimate populations will likely drop below 1,000 seals within a few years.
In partnership with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Ocean Conservancy, KAHEA is working to ensure the federal government establishes adequate critical habitat for monk seals. Recent studies have shown that species with critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering as species without it. View our petition for critical habitat.
Designating critical habitat prevents the federal government from making decisions that might harm protected shorelines (and thus the survival of seals), while ensuring that these important shorelines are there for the seals, the surfers, fishers... and all of us who love and rely on the ocean.
UPDATE (6/2/11): Feds release critical habitat proposal to protect almost ALL beaches and nearshore areas in Hawai'i! Read more...
We're working to gather 1,000 signatures in support of solutions for the Hawaiian monk seal. You can sign this petition easily online today!
This is going to be a long-term struggle to ensure this ancient, Hawaiian endemic native species has the resources it needs to survive. Now is your chance to make your voice heard!
Currently, the Hawaiian monk seal has critical habitat designated only on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. However, scientists have discovered monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands dying of starvation, emaciated and weak. Pups have only about a one-in-five chance of surviving to adulthood. Other threats include drowning in abandoned fishing gear, shark predation, and disease.
Hawaiian monk seals are increasingly populating the main islands, where they are giving birth to healthy pups. For the past decade, the number of Hawaiian monk seal births has increased each year on the main islands, and the population of seals is growing steadily; the seals are in better condition than those in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This indicates more food availability and a better chance of survival in the Main Hawaiian Islands.
Global warming is also a threat to the survival of Hawaiian monk seals. Already, the conservation groups warn, important pupping beaches in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have been lost due to sea-level rise and erosion, and the northwestern islands will eventually disappear under predicted levels of sea-level rise since they are elevated only a few meters above sea level. The higher-elevation main islands are less vulnerable to sea-level rise.
Hawaiian monk seals are one of three species of monk seals. The Mediterranean monk seal is also critically endangered, while the Caribbean monk seal, which has not been seen in half a century, was declared extinct in June 2008.
Recovery for the Hawaiian monk seal is possible. But without our strong, immediate action, the Hawaiian monk seal -- and our cultural, spiritual, and historical connections to it -- will be lost forever.