The Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered marine mammal that inhabits and is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Despite decade’s long multi-disciplinary research and recovery tactics, the future survival of this species is still tenuous with only approximately 1,400 individuals remaining at the end of 2016.
The species is divided into two primary sub-populations. One sub-population that inhabits the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), and another sub-population that inhabits the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Hawaii Island.
The sub-population of seals in the NWHI has generally suffered from annual declines for decades due to several natural and potentially human-related causes, some of which are not, as-yet, fully understood. The difficulty of studying and impacting the sub-population in the NWHI is exacerbated by the extreme remoteness of these islands and the complicated logistics and costs of mounting scientific field expeditions to the area.
The sub-population of seals in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI), however, is slowly growing due to improved seal survival rates, more abundant food sources and other environmental conditions. This population in the MHI represents an important opportunity for us to save this species and is therefore the primary focus of our work.