Hawaiian Monk Seal

status: critically endangered


The current status of the Hawaiian Monk Seal is critically endangered. Their habitat is the coral atolls and rocky islands in northern Hawaii. The main reproductive sites for these seals are the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Reef, Midway Atoll and Kure Atoll. These are places the seal has been spotted. They also breed in even smaller numbers at the Necker and Nihoa Islands in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and in the main Hawaiian Islands, and there have been a few sightings around the Hawaiian Archipelago. These animals live in very warm areas, yet they have similar fat content to seals who live in polar regions. They developed behavioral adaptations to cope with the warmth of their tropical habitat. They have been threatened since the 1800s when they were persecuted for their meat, hides, and oil. Their habitat was disturbed by bird guano and feather collectors. A major food shortage, especially in the French Frigate Shoals, is a reason they are critically endangered. The marine debris that accumulates near these islands over time is another reason the numbers of seals are declining. Non human threats, such as sharks and violent mature males during breeding season, are also responsible.

efforts & impact

The Hawaiian Monk Seal has been on the United States Endangered Species List since 1976, which is a law that lists provisions to protect the seals. The National Marine Fisheries Service takes care of the population. In 2000, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve began which is said to be helping protect the Hawaiian Monk Seal and its habitat. Currently, they do not have any economic importance. The impact of this seal on the ecosystem is that they prey on 40 species of marine animals that live in the coral atolls with them, including species of teleost fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans.

how can we help

There are many ways to help this seal survive. The efforts include cleaning up the marine debris and toxic chemicals surrounding the island, removing sharks that could possibly be preying on seals, minimizing human activities on these islands that disturb the natural habitat, and regulating fisheries to reduce interactions. This species is headed for extinction and if there aren't more of these efforts, they will be gone in the near future. The survival rate is very low, and some organizations are considering taking seals into captivity and then releasing them again hoping to increase a chance of survival.
Endangered Hawaiian monk seal encounter underwater