KAHEA, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Ocean Conservancy filed a request last July to designate more critical habitat for the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal, which was supported last week, on June 12, in a report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This critical habitat designation will not affect fishing, surfing or other recreational use of the ocean or beaches, but will restrict federally funded activities and actions that require federal permits, such as channel dredging, military activities or coastal development.
NOAA has a network of volunteers that are trying to protect the seals while they bask. They are slowly returning to the main Hawaiian region, where single individuals are being seen surfing a wave. NOAA and the Marine Mammal Center are also conducting significant research as well as other organizations in an attempt to enhance the population and their health.
As part of these efforts the Center for Biological Diversity, the Ocean Conservancy and NOAA are advancing on increasing the seals habitat first in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where the majority of the world’s remaining Hawaiian monk seals are, and then in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Predation by sharks, a high male-to-female ratios — which drives to several males to take interest in one single female, sometimes leading to the females death — plus human disturbances, such as lobster (their preferred food) overfishing, entanglement in fishing nets and former hunting has lead this species to the brink of extinction.
“What happens in the coming few years will determine the survival of this species,” said Marti Townsend, Program Director at KAHEA. “We cannot expect to save this species without engaging in the hard task of meaningfully protecting habitat.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is commencing its rulemaking process, by which it drafts a proposed rule to revise the monk seal’s critical habitat. Upon publishing the proposed rule, NMFS will solicit public comments on it, which will be incorporated in the final rule. The critical habitat will be revised once the final rule is published.
The monk seal is truly a Hawaiian species and has been designated Hawai΄i’s state marine mammal. The Hawaiian monk seal is endemic to Hawai΄i, meaning it is found nowhere else on Earth. Over the centuries, the ‘Ilioholoikauaua has been honored in oli (chant) and mele (song) as an ‘aumakua (guardian) and a representative of the deities.
Compiled from KAHEA material.
Copyright © 2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC