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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COMMENTS (24)
  • cassidyk-pla
    2/13/2017 - 01:37 p.m.

    This article talks about the endangered marine mammal, the Hawaiian monk seal. Although it is one of the most critically endangered, federal wildlife officials say the population has been increasing by 3% in the last three years. This is partly due to programs that help disentangle seals from marine debris. This article relates to civic engagement because it is our duty to properly dispose of our trash so it doesn't end up in the ocean and harm the wildlife. Overall I thought this was a very interesting article to read because I love learning about animals and their habitats.

  • rachelt-pla
    2/13/2017 - 02:13 p.m.

    The population of Hawaiian monk seals have declined for over 50 years. With the current population only at 1,4000 seals, scientists are worried about extinctions to the species. This decline can be contributed to young seals struggling to compete for food with large fish as well as shark attacks in the French Frigate Shoals, one of the chain's most pristine atolls. Currently only one and five seals survive to reach adulthood, however, scientists have come up with a few programs (disentangling seals from debris and taking malnourished seals and nursing them back to health), which has increased the survival rate to about 30 percent. In regards to civic engagement, citizens need to realize that distributing debri into oceans/rivers causes harm to the organisms that live there (even to the point of extinction), as well as, an extinction would cause other problems within the animal hierarchy, which could be detrimental if an organism was removed (especially for those that use that animal to survive-- could cause other organisms to go extinct).

  • beatricep1-pla
    2/13/2017 - 03:01 p.m.

    Hawaiian Monk Seals have been an endangered species for years, never quite reaching the point of stabilization. However, scientists now say the population of these island seals has been increasing by 3% for the last three years. Scientists are of course thrilled with the recovery, but assert the need for more as there is still a long way to go. One of the major problems with the survival of Hawaiian Monk Seals is their lack of food. The competition between the seals, large fish, and sharks is often too much for the seals. Seals are taken in by research programs and help.
    One of the other major issues the seals face is the civil engagement. Many seals are tangled in marine debris, unable to get out without the aid of programs. While maybe not affected by a group of kids in Wisconsin directly, humanity as a whole remains responsible for the debris in our oceans. Environmental preservation is essential to ensuring a safe planet for future generations.

  • bradl-pla
    2/14/2017 - 03:02 p.m.

    Scientists in Hawaii have observed a 3% increase in the population every year for the past three years. By utilizing programs that help nurse baby seals to health, and el NiƱo supplying more food, the seal population has rebounded. The seals were struggling as newly weaned seals had to compete against sharks and other large fish. Scientists hope to increase the population to the 1950s level of 3,400. I personally was wondering if the population decrease was not caused by man as the article did not mention human causes. If this is the case, should we let nature take its course, or help the seals?

  • annakatep-cel
    2/15/2017 - 11:06 a.m.

    Hawaiian monk seal juveniles struggled to compete for food with large fish and sharks in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a mostly uninhabited stretch of tiny reefs made of coral that includes Midway.

  • kaileew-ste
    2/16/2017 - 11:25 a.m.

    Hawaiian Monk seals have been increasing over the past three years. There are now about 1,400 of these seals in the wild. Before this, it has been declining since the 1950's.

  • jacklynt-ste
    2/17/2017 - 02:29 p.m.

    Hawaiian Monk seals are very rare. Now, their population is increasing steadily. This is being considered ad "phenomenal".

  • noahr-ste
    2/20/2017 - 07:52 a.m.

    It is good to seal that the seals are surviving more and more each year. There has been nearly a 3% increase in seals each year. The baby seals are more vulnerable because their size and their inability to get away from danger fast enough.

  • daltons1-ste
    2/20/2017 - 06:55 p.m.

    These stories give me hope for humanity. These seals are super cute. I need one as a pet because they are adorable.

  • makenziev-pla
    2/21/2017 - 07:18 p.m.

    This article describes how the severely endangered monk seal is beginning to become less extinct. Numbers are slowly but surely rising and the world is looking up for these beautiful creatures.

    I think that this article is a good example of civic engagement because societies advocating for the Hawaiian Monk Seals were able to truly make a difference. They were able to spread the word to the public and create change. Then, they took to the water and helped to clean up the underwater environment and even help the malnourished seals get healthy so they could have a better chance to survive and reproduce.

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