Maui News

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals Returned to NW Hawaiian Islands

April 1, 2015, 3:53 PM HST
* Updated April 2, 7:05 AM
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By Maui Now Staff

Two critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals were successfully returned to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on March 25, 2015, after being rescued last year.  Both were found emaciated, one on Kure Atoll and another on Laysan Island, during NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program’s field camp season.

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The seals spent the past five months being rehabilitated at the Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kona.

“The successful rehabilitation and release of these young seals demonstrates the collaboration and innovation that will be necessary to save Hawaiian monk seals from extinction,” said Dr. Rachel Sprague, NOAA Fisheries’ Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Coordinator in an agency press release.

“The dedicated efforts displayed by NOAA, The Marine Mammal Center, US Coast Guard, State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, and US Fish and Wildlife Service show how it will take every one of us to help protect these extraordinary animals. As a result of our intervention, two young female monk seals are now returning home to a bright future where they can contribute to the recovery of their species,” said Sprague.

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Officials with the US Coast Guard in Hawaii say that after rehabilitation, the two juvenile females, “have a better chance of surviving their first two years of life and will hopefully grow to have their own pups.”

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The Hawaiian monk seal is critically endangered, with fewer than 1,100 individuals in the wild, including about 900 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Agency officials say fewer than one in five Hawaiian monk seal pups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands survive their first year due to threats like starvation, entanglement in marine debris, male aggression due to abnormally small population size, and more.

In an effort to combat these threats, NOAA Fisheries implements numerous strategies, the most proactive of which is their monk seal recovery program.  According to information released by the agency, at least 30% of the Hawaiian monk seal population is alive today because of the collaborative efforts to help save them.

Lt. Andrew Kauffman, an HC-130 Hercules airplane pilot from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, observes the onload of a Hawaiian Monk Seal in Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Lt. Andrew Kauffman, an HC-130 Hercules airplane pilot from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, observes the onload of a Hawaiian Monk Seal in Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources assist with offloading a Hawaiian Monk Seal off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, USFW and DLNR partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources assist with offloading a Hawaiian Monk Seal off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, USFW and DLNR partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources assist with offloading a Hawaiian Monk Seal off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Island Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, USFW and DLNR partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources assist with offloading a Hawaiian Monk Seal off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Island Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, USFW and DLNR partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point assist with offloading two female Hawaiian Monk Seals off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point assist with offloading two female Hawaiian Monk Seals off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point assist with offloading a Hawaiian Monk Seal off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point assist with offloading a Hawaiian Monk Seal off an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Midway Atoll, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Brenda Becker, a Hawaiian Monk Seal research program scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lays down absorbent pads for two female Hawaiian Monk Seals on an HC-130 Hercules airplane, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Brenda Becker, a Hawaiian Monk Seal research program scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lays down absorbent pads for two female Hawaiian Monk Seals on an HC-130 Hercules airplane, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)
NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Land and Natural Resources pose for a photo after safely loading two female Hawaiian Monk Seals onto an HC-130 Hercules airplane in Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, DLNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Land and Natural Resources pose for a photo after safely loading two female Hawaiian Monk Seals onto an HC-130 Hercules airplane in Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, NOAA, DLNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)
NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, prepare to load two female Hawaiian Monk Seals onto an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, prepare to load two female Hawaiian Monk Seals onto an HC-130 Hercules airplane at Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point assist with offloading crates for two female Hawaiian Monk Seal off of an HC-130 Hercules airplane in Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)

Crew members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point assist with offloading crates for two female Hawaiian Monk Seal off of an HC-130 Hercules airplane in Kona, Hawaii, March 18, 2015. Coast Guard crew members, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Land and Natural Resources partnered together to transport two rehabilitated Hawaiian Monk Seals to Midway Atoll where they would be transferred via ship to Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle) NMFS permit #932-1905-01/ma-009526-1

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