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14th September, 2015

Translocation déjà vu


CBD_Habitat_screenIn declaring the Mediterranean monk seal colony at Cap Blanc in Mauritania/western Sahara “closed” [see blog], is Spanish NGO CBD-Habitat edging ever closer to resurrecting a plan that would see seals artificially translocated to other areas? The theory is that this would minimise the risk to the colony posed by mass mortality events, while helping to recolonise areas historically occupied by the species. Unfortunately, as earlier abandoned attempts to translocate or captive breed monk seals proved, the devil is in the detail.

With other signs indicating that a new translocation plan might already be on the drawing board, The Monachus Guardian has requested clarification from CBD-Habitat on no fewer than seven occasions, but has received no reply. Ironically, earlier, discredited and ultimately abandoned attempts to translocate monk seals — with all the attendant risks of seals being wounded or killed during capture and transport — were roundly condemned for their lack of transparency.

The Monachus Guardian’s view — shared by many involved in monk seal conservation — is that translocation should be examined carefully as a potential option in the recovery of the species, but only through wide and open consultation with the wider scientific and conservation community. While previous efforts to translocate or captive breed monk seals have routinely tried to sideline potential critics, others rightly insist that critics are precisely what are required in order to design a project that can highlight and mitigate potential risks. Pursuing controversial and potentially risky projects through the “backdoor” does a disservice to the Mediterranean monk seal and conservation at large.

9th April, 2015

The conservation workshop that wasn’t


“Mediterranean monk seal biologists and managers are jetting across oceans to Hawaii to attend the International Collaboration for the Conservation of Monk Seals. The HMSRP and our international colleagues will be spending the next two weeks sharing science, outreach and management experiences to help both species of monk seal. We will be sharing news, updates and interesting facts over the next 2 weeks.” — NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program

Some — including The Monachus Guardian — have questioned the wisdom of convening a “closed door” workshop of this type at a time of severe funding shortages, urgent conservation challenges at the grassroots level, and lack of stakeholder participation in both Hawaii and the Mediterranean. [See comments on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program Facebook page for a brief overview of the debate — or rather, the debate that should be.]

While the 12-day event in Hawaii is now hastily being described as a “technical workshop” only (— one wonders why, then, it is billed as “International Collaboration for the Conservation of Monk Seals”), it is a fallacy to contend that discussions on such issues as human-seal interactions and translocation will have no direct bearing on practical management choices for the species and its habitats. With many monk seal conservationists not participating in the workshop, both from Hawaii and the Mediterranean, one wonders when the usual “top down” conservation management habits of the past will be seen for what they are: counter-productive. While it may be unrealistic or impractical for every interested party to attend such a workshop, one cannot help but ask why even the most rudimentary details have not been provided to other interested parties and the public at large — such as a workshop agenda and a list of participants.

“The usual top down approaches have failed monk seals everywhere. We need a new paradigm of collaboration and cooperation among all stakeholders, not simply a few singular entities. A true international collaboration and discussion could be tremendously helpful.” — Monk Seal Foundation

“An event where they announce they’ll be ‘sharing science, outreach and management experiences’ but yet aren’t even inviting the NOAA Recovery Program that is responsible for a great deal of outreach and management? smh There are many organizations in Hawaii and Europe (been in touch with a few this weekend) that could have potentially benefited from attending even if it was simply to learn. At a time when Federal Funding isn’t even remotely close to what is needed to save the species, it’s imperative that opportunities not be wasted.” — Pat Wardell

12th June, 2014

NOAA releases Final Environmental Impact Statement for Monk Seal Actions

NOAA Announcement

hawaiianmonkseal1_pifscThe 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:

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.

The Record of Decision is also available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/eis/hawaiianmonksealeis.htm.

HMS Final PEIS Record of Decision (PDF 255 KB)

8th August, 2012

NOAA scientists optimistic, despite record low births

Media Watch, KITV, 7 August 2012

NOAA scientists, fresh from field camp in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, return with both troubling and hopeful news on efforts to save the Hawaiian monk seal.

Source: Monk seal relocation successful, KITV via Yahoo News.

13th February, 2012

NOAA removes “aggressive” monk seal from NWHI

Statement, NOAA Fisheries, 10 February 2012

In 2010 and 2011 NOAA Fisheries staff began to observe a nine-year old monk seal, KE18, attacking newly weaned and juvenile seals at Kure Atoll in the NWHI; causing injuries including lacerations, scratches and puncture wounds on this critical component of the monk seal population. KE18 seriously injured 10 of the 13 pups and an additional three juveniles during the 2010 and 2011 field camps on Kure Atoll. When KE18 transited to Midway Atoll there were two unexplained deaths during his time there.

→ Continue reading NOAA removes “aggressive” monk seal from NWHI

5th February, 2012

Research and showbiz planned for aggressive monk seal

Media Watch, Hawaii News Now, 4 February 2012

Marine mammal experts once considered KE-18 to be such a dangerous Hawaiian monk seal it appeared they had no choice but to euthanize him. Six months later KE-18 has been captured and is headed for life as a research subject and aquarium attraction.

KE-18 is known to have attacked at least 13 pups and juvenile seals at Kure and Midway Atolls. […]

The plan is to move KE-18 to U.C. Santa Cruz in late February. It is the same facility where another Hawaiian monk seal, KP2, lived for two years before being brought back to Hawaii and a permanent home at the Waikiki Aquarium.

While in Santa Cruz, KE-18 will serve as a research subject. [More]

Source: Research & showbiz planned for aggressive monk seal, Hawaii News Now, 4 February 2012.

8th January, 2012

Hawaii’s seal killing outbreak

Media Watch, USA Today, 8 January 2012

No one knows who is killing the seals — a critically endangered species — or why.

But the deaths are coming as the federal government steps up its efforts to protect the seals, leading to simmering resentment among some fishermen who fear new regulations will trample upon their right to fish. The killings are also happening as the misguided notion spreads that the animals aren’t native to Hawaii and don’t belong here.

“It’s really serious. This attitude, this negative attitude toward the seals has overpowered the concern that this is a species that’s going to become extinct,” said Walter Ritte, a Molokai resident and longtime activist who has sounded an alarm about the killings. [More]

Source: Outbreak of endangered seal killings in Hawaii, USA Today, 8 January 2012.

30th December, 2011

Third monk seal found dead

Media Watch, Honolulu Civil Beat, 28 December 2011

A third monk seal was found dead on Molokai Wednesday and officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working to determine the cause of death.

The discovery comes after news last week that NOAA is investigating the deaths of two other monk seals in which foul play is suspected. […]

The monk seal deaths come at a time when tensions between local fishermen and NOAA have escalated as the agency considers expanding protections for the endangered species around the main Hawaiian islands. [More]

Source: Third monk seal found dead on Molokai, Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat, 28 December 2011