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Critically Endangered Hawaiian monk seals bludgeoned to death

A Hawaiian monk seal at Hana Maui, Hawaii . Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
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).

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