Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 18, 2015

Contacts: Miyoko Sakashita, (808) 352-1771,

New Habitat Protections Will Help Hawaiian Monk Seals Avoid Extinction

HONOLULU— The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule today protecting almost 7,000 square miles of critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals, one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. The ruling requires greater scrutiny of federally funded or permitted projects along coastal areas on the main Hawaiian islands to protect this native monk seal, whose population is down to around 1,100 and falling at 3 percent per year.

“Hawaiian monk seals have been in serious trouble for a long time, and these new habitat protections will give them a desperately needed chance at survival,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Monk seals are nearly extinct, so we need to make sure our coasts offer them a safe haven.”

Today’s action is the culmination of a process that began in 2008 with a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance and Ocean Conservancy that involved dozens of public hearings and responses to more than 20,000 public comments. Federal data shows that endangered species with critical habitat protections are twice as likely to be recovering as those without.

Critical habitat protections won’t affect people’s ability to visit the beach, surf or engage in recreational or subsistence fishing and gathering. The designation does not make the lands federal, restrict public access or forbid activities or developments. But today’s action does recognize the importance of protecting the monk seals’ habitat and requires the federal government to consult biologists before allowing activities that may disturb or damage the home of these rare and vanishing animals.

“We’re happy to see the federal government finally take this important step,” Sakashita said. “We will continue to work with our partners in Hawaii to ensure the successful recovery of the monk seals and safeguard the region’s rich biodiversity.”

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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