Marine Conservation Institute undertook this report on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Program for the purpose of enhancing the conservation prospects of one of the world’s most endangered pinnipeds. The Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi), whose estimated population now hovers between 900 and 1,100 animals, has suffered a 60-year decline despite the efforts of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and others to reverse it. Although some may view the seal’s fate as hopeless, it is not. Despite difficult circumstances, NMFS and its partners have made progress on several fronts to slow the seal’s decline. Encouragingly, NMFS estimates that up to 32 per cent of all seals living in 2012 were alive because of hundreds of interventions taken by the agency over many years to enhance the survival of individual seals at risk.
Nevertheless, the recovery program faces several challenges that must be met if the program is going to meet its current long term goal of having a population of 3,200 seals, with 500 individuals in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) and 2,900 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). With a good strategy, sufficient resources, and effective coordination among its several partners, we think NMFS can accelerate progress toward achieving and maintaining a healthy population of monk seals. But it is not going to be easy.
Chandler, W., E. Douce, K. Shugart-Schmidt, T. Watson, M. Sproat, F. Rosenstiel, K. Yentes, X. Escovar-Fadul, and T. Laubenstein. 2015. Enhancing the future of the Hawaiian monk seal: recommendations for the NOAA recovery program. Marine Conservation Institute. Seattle, WA: 1-80. [PDF 4.3MB]
The Final PEIS for Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Actions was made available for public review from April 11 to May 12, 2014. The Preferred Alternative identified in the Final PEIS is Alternative 3, Limited Translocation. The Preferred Alternative does not include any translocation option that involves moving seals born in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and releasing them in the main Hawaiian Islands. The Final PEIS is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/eis/hawaiianmonkseal.htm.
NOAA Fisheries has issued the Record of Decision for the Final PEIS, which summarizes the alternatives considered, identifies the preferred alternative (Alternative 3, Limited Translocation) and why it was chosen, and identifies required mitigation and monitoring. NOAA Fisheries plans to implement Alternative 3 and permit and conduct the research and enhancement activities included in this alternative.
News release, US Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), 5 October 2012
Photo courtesy NOAA
The Department of Land and Natural Resources and NOAA Fisheries announce that since the beginning of 2012, NOAA Fisheries, DLNR, and partners have responded to 13 seal hooking incidents involving ten individual Hawaiian monk seals.
Due to early reporting, seven of the 11 live cases ended successfully with intervention from authorized federal and state agency monk seal responders.
Two cases ended in the seal ridding itself without intervention, and although an intervention was attempted, one seal remains hooked to this day.
Three cases ended in deaths.
Most recently, on Oct. 2, 2012, the monk seal locally known as “RK54” was found dead near the Ninini Light house on Kauai. The seal swallowed a hook, became entangled in the line, and died. RK54 was born in April 2011 to RK22 (mother of the “famous” KP2 who resides at Waikiki Aquarium).
News Release, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii, 11 May 2012
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and NOAA Fisheries announced this week that since March 2012, NOAA Fisheries, DLNR, and partners have responded to five seal hooking incidents involving four individual Hawaiian monk seals. Three of these responses are still in progress.
NOAA and DLNR would like to take this opportunity to remind fishermen that monk seal deaths and injuries from fishing interactions can often be prevented, and adverse impacts to fishermen and seals can be reduced through early reporting of incidents.
“Monk seals are a vital part of Hawai‘i’s marine and cultural environment,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chairperson. “While DLNR and NOAA seek to address all adverse impacts on Hawaiian monk seals, we want to acknowledge the cooperation of Hawai‘i fishermen and emphasize that we do not consider fishing interactions in the main Hawaiian Islands to currently pose a major threat to monk seal recovery.”
NOAA Fisheries Service data indicate that a total of 77 hooking incidents have been reported over the past 10 years, with at total of nine incidents in 2011 and eight incidents reported thus far in 2012 (including the five incidents discussed here). [More]
Dr. Haulena gives endangered monk seal anaesthesia for surgical procedure (NOAA)
Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, received an emergency call on May 9 to fly to Hawaii to help support a local rescue effort.
He participated in two successful procedures to remove accidentally-ingested fishing hooks from endangered monk seals on May 10.
One of the monk seals required surgery to remove the hook, which was lodged deep in the esophagus near the opening to the stomach. Dr. Haulena performed the anesthesia and collaborated with Dr. Robert Braun and veterinarians at the Honolulu Zoo to remove the hook. The seal is in recovery and rehabilitation is expected to take several days to weeks. [More]