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SAVING THE HAWAIIAN MONK SEAL

The Hawaiian monk seal, known to native Hawaiians as ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or “dog that runs in rough water,” now faces much worse conditions than choppy waves. Thanks to threats like limited food availability, entanglement in fishing gear, predation, and disease, this federally endangered seal has seen dramatic population declines in the last half-century that have left it one of the world’s most imperiled marine mammals. Add to those threats the ever-worsening effects of global warming — which interferes with delicate marine ecosystems and causes sea-level rise that endangers seal pupping beaches — and it’s no surprise that the Hawaiian monk seal’s population is expected to plunge to fewer than 1,000 animals in the next few years.

The Center has been working to protect the Hawaiian monk seal since 2000, when we and allies filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for letting a lobster fishery and bottomfish fishery further deplete the seal’s food supply, invade critical habitat, and interfere with key life activities. A federal judge ruled that both fisheries were in violation of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act, and the lobster fishery was shut down the very same year.

And there is still hope for the seal: Even as its numbers tumble downward in its core range on the northwestern Hawaiian islands, seals are increasingly inhabiting the main Hawaiian islands, where pups are healthy and the population is on the rise. To give the species a chance at survival, the Center petitioned the administration under the Endangered Species Act to grant the seal protected habitat not only on the northwestern islands but on the main islands as well — and in June 2011, the Obama administration proposed to expand the seal’s habitat to 11,000 square miles, including beaches and coastal waters on all the main Hawaiian Islands and expanded protected habitat in the Northwestern Islands.

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KEY DOCUMENTS
2011 Critical habitat expansion proposal
2008 Center critical habitat petition
2008 Fact sheet
2007 National Marine Fisheries Service five-year review
2007 Federal recovery plan
1958-2001 Chronology of conservation actions

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROFILE

ACTION TIMELINE

NATURAL HISTORY

MEDIA
Press releases
Media highlights
Search our newsroom for the Hawaiian monk seal

RELATED ISSUES
Ocean Acidification
Global Warming and Endangered Species Initiative
Fisheries
The Endangered Species Act


Contact: Miyoko Sakashita

Photo by James P. McVey, NOAA