Today, more than 30 years later, it has the unfortunate status as the most endangered pinniped in the United States. Over the last 30 years, significant efforts have been made to enhance the recovery of the species, but its population has declined at a rate of 3 to 4% per year for the past decade, and there are now fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals left in existence. Moreover, a newborn monk seal has only a 1-in-5 chance of surviving to adulthood. This is dismal news for a species found only in Hawaii and that has been in existence for more than 13 million years.
Of the 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals alive today, 100 are in the Main Hawaiian Islands, and 1,000 are in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. For reasons such as shark predation, food shortages and marine debris, the monk seals on the Northwest Hawaiian Islands are having a harder time than their counterparts on the Main Islands. However, the seals on the Main Islands are also increasingly victims of marine debris and other negative human interactions, such as gun shots and harassment.
Some facts about the Hawaiian monk seal:
- The Hawaiian Monk Seal is the official state mammal of Hawaii
- Hawaiian monk seals have a diet that consists mainly of fish, squid, octopus, and lobster.
- They hunt mainly at night and often haul out on sandy beaches during the daytime.
- Mating season is from December until mid-August.
- Pups are approximately three feet long at the time of birth and weigh about 35 pounds. They spend their first 35 to 40 days with their mother while they nurse.
On June 8, 2010, a new bill was signed into law by Lieutenant Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr., as acting governor of Hawaii, that makes it a felony to harm a Hawaiian monk seal, and imposes fines up to $50,000 for those who commit crimes against monk seals.
This new law is a great sign of the commitment Hawaii is making toward the protection of the monk seal. But Hawaii needs our help to do something else to help save these seals.