Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals This Sept. 15, 2016 file photo shows a Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, on a Waikiki beach in Honolulu. Federal wildlife biologists say the population of endangered Hawaiian monk seals has grown 3 percent a year for the past three years. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals
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The population of Hawaiian monk seals - one of the world's most critically endangered marine mammals - has been increasing 3 percent a year for the past three years, federal wildlife officials said Jan. 24.
 
There are now about 1,400 of the seals in the wild, said Charles Littnan, lead scientist of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
"This is phenomenal, hopeful news for the population," Littnan told reporters in Honolulu. "Yet we have a long way to go to recovery."
 
The population has experienced increases in the past, including the mid-2000s, but Littnan characterized those as minor blips.
 
Hawaiian monk seals declined in numbers for years, most recently as juveniles struggled to compete for food with large fish and sharks in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a mostly uninhabited stretch of tiny atolls that includes Midway.
 
Sharks also attacked recently weaned seals at French Frigate Shoals, one of the chain's most pristine atolls.
 
At one point, only one in five juveniles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lived to adulthood.
 
Littnan said more juveniles are now surviving in part because of programs like those that disentangle seals from marine debris and take malnourished young seals to a Big Island seal hospital to nurse them back to health.
 
Littnan says about 30 percent of Hawaiian monk seals are alive today because of the programs.
 
He also attributed the rebound to broader environmental changes, such as El Nino, which is a periodic warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather globally. El Nino patterns can help boost the food supply for the seals that eat squid, eels, crab and other marine life.
 
The population in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is estimated at about 1,100. The population in the Main Hawaiian Islands, home to Honolulu and other cities, is 300. The population in the main islands was growing for many years but has leveled out and stabilized, Littnan said.
 
The monk seal population had been declining since the 1950s, when federal authorities counted 3,400 seals on Northwestern Hawaiian Island beaches. Federal officials want to return the population to that level.
 
Littnan cautioned that the population increase could shift radically.
 
"This should be a bright spark, a glimmer of hope, that thing that fuels conservation. It shouldn't breed complacency," he said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Where are young seals more vulnerable?
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COMMENTS (23)
  • vaneises-
    2/08/2017 - 08:42 a.m.

    Young juveniles are more vulnerable in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as they struggle to compete for food with large fish and sharks there.

  • lukej1-pla
    2/08/2017 - 11:35 a.m.

    On and around the shores of the Hawaiian islands, officials are seeing a significant increase in the number of surviving monk seals. They're seeing a population increase of about 3% each year, and this is being attributed to some efforts to free seals stuck in debris as well as an establishment of a seal hospital on the Big Island of Hawaii. While officials have seen slight increases in population, especially in the early to mid-2000s, these were reported as insignificant and this is the first time a substantial growth has been reported.

    I liked the article as I feel environmental preservation is an important issue. The author quoted trends and statistics dating back to the 1950s, and I feel as if doing so allows me to more fully understand the significance of this topic.

  • rossf-4-pla
    2/09/2017 - 08:58 a.m.

    This article was about the monk seal population starting to grow back. From the devastating drop in population. But it's only increasing by 3% and they are hoping to make that number bigger and get it back up to 3,400 which was the normal population in the 1950s.But it will be a struggle cause the increase in population could shift dramatically. I can connect to this article because I like animals and I don't care what animal none should ever face the reallity of extinction.

  • emilym4-4-pla
    2/09/2017 - 10:29 a.m.

    Hawaiian Monk Seals are and endangered species but has increased 3% a year. There are about 1,400 seals now and have had a magnificent recovery but they still have a long way to go. The monk seals had decreased in years for they had to compete for food with other animals like sharks and larger fish. The sharks had also been attacking the seals which made there population harder to reproduce and survive. more juveniles have survived because of the program helping the seals and taking them to hospitals to get the injured better.
    I chose this article because I have always loved animals and when I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian but now not so much but I still have a strong feeling towards animals and seeing them hurt make me really sad.

  • erinh1-4-pla
    2/09/2017 - 11:15 a.m.

    This article speaks of how monk seal population have been increasing in more recent years due to programs that help keep oceans clean. This is huge, monk seals were once known to be one of the most endangered aquatic species out there. Now, we have seen significant growth in numbers, and more of the juvenile seals are surviving to adulthood. I very much enjoy this article because sea animals are my favorite animals; sharks, rays, whales and even crabs alike make me happy. So to hear that we don't have another extinct species in the oceans, or that in fact they are getting better, makes me feel so positive about the world.

  • griffinc-4-pla
    2/09/2017 - 12:39 p.m.

    On the Hawaiian island, people are seeing increasing in the number of monk seals. The population is increasing about 3%. Some seals got stuck in debris, so they created seal hospital. While officials have seen slight increases in population, especially around the 2000's, these were reported as insignificant and this is the first time a substantial growth has been reported.

    Connection: I like animals and seeing animals that were dying start to survive, I like to see them survive and it is always to see cool animals like seals to survival increase.

  • zakrym-ste
    2/10/2017 - 01:40 p.m.

    They have seen a 3% increase each year. It is great that more and more are surviving. Hopefully they can keep growing in number.

  • irisp-ste
    2/13/2017 - 09:18 a.m.

    It is nice to hear that an animal is actually increasing in population rather than nearing extinction like many other organism I have heard about lately. Most people want to discuss how awful extinction is but never actually do anything to prevent or stop it from happening. It seems like marine biologists in Hawaii are taking the proper actions to increase certain populations of species.

  • johannaw-cel
    2/13/2017 - 10:06 a.m.

    The population of the Hawaiian monk seals had been declining since the 1950s, when federal authorities counted 3,400 seals on Northwestern Hawaiian Island beaches. Now, they want to return the population to that level. Hawaiian monk seals are one of the world's most critically endangered marine animals but now they found out that their population has been increasing 3 percent a year for the past three years. In my opinion this are really good news and it gives hope to many other endangered species around the world. About 30 percent of Hawaiian monk seals are alive today because of programs like those that disentangle seals from marine debris and take malnourished young seals to a Big Island seal hospital to nurse them back to health. I think those programs are great and we should support those programs and help to reduce the risk that some species are going to go extinct some day.

  • gabrielleb-pla
    2/13/2017 - 12:09 p.m.

    Ever since the 1950's, the population of Hawaiian Monk Seals has been decreasing due to food competition, and hungry sharks. In recent years, however, scientists have been seeing a slight increase in the population. This is most likely because of the effort of groups to help free the seals from marine debris, and to aid malnourished seals. Scientists and advocates hope that someday the seals will reach a larger population like in the 1950's.

    I enjoyed this article, especially because I did not even know this problem even existed. Because of the help of volunteers and these organizations, the endangered population is now rising to a healthier level. A way to get involved or to help the Hawaiian Monk Seals would be to donate money to these organizations, or volunteer to help in the effort.

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