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 has been increasing 3 percent a year. It has occurred for the past three years, federal wildlife officials said Jan. 24. Hawaiian monk seals are one of the world's most critically endangered marine mammals.
 
There are now about 1,400 of the seals in the wild. That is according to Charles Littnan. He is 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. It happened most recently as juveniles struggled to compete for food with large fish and sharks in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is a mostly uninhabited stretch of tiny atolls. It includes Midway.
 
Sharks also attacked recently weaned seals at French Frigate Shoals. It is 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 surviving. This is in part because of programs like those that untangle seals from marine debris. And another that takes 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 because of the programs.
 
He also attributed the rebound to broader environmental changes, such as El Nino. That 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 it has leveled out and stabilized, Littnan said.
 
The monk seal population had been declining since the 1950s. Back then, 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?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (90)
  • andyz-har
    2/08/2017 - 08:17 a.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable because they have to compete with larger fish and sharks that live in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. These larger fish and sharks are probably the seals' predator, so they can't eat a lot and go out.

  • jacquelynt-
    2/08/2017 - 08:38 a.m.

    That's cool that they are really trying to bring the population back up and how did they even become endangered

  • madelync-
    2/08/2017 - 08:40 a.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands because they are competing for food with large fish and sharks. Sharks are also attacking the seals.

  • sydneys-buh
    2/08/2017 - 12:56 p.m.

    i read about seals. have been increasing 3 by day.and one 3 in each ocean


    my opinion on this is that it is crazy

  • brandona52163-
    2/08/2017 - 01:01 p.m.

    hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species

  • carlosj-
    2/08/2017 - 01:05 p.m.

    int the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands the seals cant find as much food so they starve and they have to watch out for sharks.

  • austinb6-har
    2/08/2017 - 01:30 p.m.

    Seals are vulnerable when they rest on the beaches.Seals are also vulnerable when they are caught in a fishing net. Seals are vulnerable when they are sick from chemicals in the water. Seals get tangled in marine debris and oil spills can make them sick.

  • robbiet-har
    2/08/2017 - 03:46 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable in the water. When they are swimming in the water, they could be attacked by sharks or caught in debris. When they get caught in the debris the seals can be harmed. The young seals are also having trouble when competing with the larger fish and sharks for food. They like to eat, squid, eels, and crabs which are also the favorite food of other sharks and fish. In conclusion, young seals are the most vulnerable when swimming or in atolls.

  • chloea-5-pla
    2/08/2017 - 06:08 p.m.

    This article is about the highly endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals. The seals are struggling to find food in the ocean. Luckily, the seals are being helped from numerous programs that care for these seals. As a result, the seals population has been increasing at steady rate for three years. There are now 1,400 Hawaiian Monk Seals living in the wild. I was surprised that the seal's population has been increasing by 3% for the past three years. I was also glad to read that there are many programs that are helping the seals fight extinction. Overall, the Hawaiian Monk Seal's are an endangered species trying to fight back.

  • hsarm-7-pla
    2/08/2017 - 10:33 p.m.

    The seals have struggled over the years and their population declined. Recently, the Hawaiian Monk seal population has increased by 3% per year for the past 3 years. The cause of the increase of is a combination of environmental changes and programs that help the seals get untangled from the marine debris. Currently, in Biology, I am learning about how only the fittest survive and that the weak die out but it seems that the week can come back and survive.

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