A Hawaiian monk seal at Hana Maui, Hawaii . Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
To date three Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi), and possibly a fourth mortality under investigation, have been found bludgeoned to death by an as yet undiscovered assailant, reports the Associated Press. Authorities believe the seals may have been killed by local fishermen who fear new regulations meant to save the species from extinction. The seal is currently down to 1,100 individuals.
Scientists believe that Hawaiian monk seals are facing stiff competition for food from fisheries and marine predators, in addition to being threatened by entanglement from fishing equipment and their natural predators, sharks. The overall population has been declining by 4 percent annually despite numerous protective measures to save them.
The AP reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed two initiatives to help save the seals: one would transfer individuals from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands to the main islands since they fare better on the main islands. Another would expand the designation of critical habitat for Hawaiian monk seals along the main islands.
One of the world’s monk seals, the Caribbean monk seal (Monachus tropicalis) has already gone extinct, disappearing sometime in the 1960s. The other two—the Hawaiian and the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)—are listed as Critically Endangered. The Hawaiian monk seal is currently protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).
(03/24/2011) Dashiell Masland, known as ‘Dash’, has always been in love with the sea and its inhabitants. Now, she is hoping to take that passion to the Hawaiian Islands to save one of the world’s most threatened marine mammals: the Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi). Extinction is a real possibility: already, the related Carribbean monk seal vanished forever around 1950. Decimated by sealers, whalers, and even soldiers in World War II, the Hawaiian monk seals are struggling to make a come back with only 1,100 individuals surviving and the population decreasing by 4% a year. Today many face starvation due to a lack of prey. This is where Masland, who is currently competing in National Geographic’s Expedition Granted, hopes to help.
(10/23/2011) A male sub-antarctic fur seal on the beach between Louri and Tassi in Loango National Park, Gabon on September 1, 2011.
(07/14/2011) Worldwide wolf populations have dropped around 99 percent from historic populations. Lion populations have fallen from 450,000 to 20,000 in 50 years. Three subspecies of tiger went extinct in the 20th Century. Overfishing and finning has cut some shark populations down by 90 percent in just a few decades. Though humpback whales have rebounded since whaling was banned, they are still far from historic numbers. While some humans have mourned such statistics as an aesthetic loss, scientists now say these declines have a far greater impact on humans than just the vanishing of iconic animals. The almost wholesale destruction of top predators—such as sharks, wolves, and big cats—has drastically altered the world’s ecosystems, according to a new review study in Science. Although researchers have long known that the decline of animals at the top of food chain, including big herbivores and omnivores, affects ecosystems through what is known as ‘trophic cascade’, studies over the past few decades are only beginning to reveal the extent to which these animals maintain healthy environments, preserve biodiversity, and improve nature’s productivity.