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Media Advisory, February 2, 2010

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 308

Hawaii Considers Strict Law to Halt Killing of Endangered Monk Seals:
Hearing and Press Conference on February 2

SAN FRANCISCO— Hawaiian lawmakers will consider legislation today that increases penalties for harming or killing Hawaiian monk seals and other endangered species. Senator Gary Hooser introduced Senate Bill 2441, which increases the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“The law shows that monk seals are an important part of Hawaii’s natural heritage that must be respected,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is one among many conservation measures needed to prevent the extinction of Hawaiian monk seals.”

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world; its population will likely drop below 1,000 animals within a few years. The proposed legislation comes in response to recent killings of monk seals; within the past year two male seals and one pregnant female fell victim to deadly shootings.

Hawaiian monk seals are increasingly populating the main islands, where they are giving birth to healthy pups and which may provide the last opportunity for their recovery. Recognizing this, in 2009 the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it would designate critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals on the main islands in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Kahea, and Ocean Conservancy. Critical habitat designation would further protect monk seals by requiring that any project with a federal permit consider the impacts on monk seal habitat.

“We need to adopt a suite of strategies to save the Hawaiian monk seal, and protecting individual monk seals and their habitat are important steps forward,” said Sakashita.

A press conference on the monk seal bill will be held at the State Capitol prior to the Senate hearing on February 2.

Save Our Seal Press Conference                                                                                                                                                    
February 2, 2010 @1:00 p.m.                                                                                                                                             
Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda                                                                                                                                       
(near the statue of Queen Liliuokalani)

Senate Joint Committee Hearing, Energy & Environment                                                                                                                                             
Water, Land, Agriculture & Hawaiian Affairs                                                                                                                
Senate Bill 2441 Endangered Species; Felony; Private Right of Action                                                                                                      
February 2, 2010 @ 2:45 p.m.                                                                                                                                         
Senate Conference Room 225

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