Friday, May 27, 2022

Applause! Endangered seal species hits return milestone

There’s some flippin’ good news in one of the world’s most endangered seal species.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that the population of Hawaiian monk seals, the only animal found in Hawaii, has surpassed 1,500 seals.

A young Hawaiian monk seal resting on the beach.

NOAA Fishing (NMFS Permit #22677; PMNM Permit #2021-015)

That number exceeds their number in more than 20 years, which is good news not only for them, but for the environment as a whole.

Expressive-faced creatures are up against many threats. A major reason is habitat loss due to climate change, as rising sea levels swallow up low-lying areas where seals live.

Other threats include getting caught in fishing nets and other marine debris, eating harmful waste such as fishing hooks, diseases, disturbances from human activity on beaches, and even some people intentionally killing them.

“We’re out there ourselves and working with partners to create life-saving interventions to prioritize women,” Barbieri told the Associated Press. “We’re really starting to see the continued payoff of intervening to save animal lives.”

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal is being driven back to the northwest Hawaiian Islands after being resettled at a marine mammal center in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
An endangered Hawaiian monk seal is being driven back to the northwest Hawaiian Islands after being resettled at a marine mammal center in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

In the Hawaiian language, monk seals are called ilio-holo-a-ka-uaa, which translates to “dog running in rough water”. Marine mammals can grow to between 6 and 7 feet long and weigh between 400-600 pounds, feeding on a wide range of fish, octopuses, squid, crustaceans and eels. Sometimes these fish become the cause of their own kind of trouble, sometimes they get stuck in the nose of the seals. Thankfully, all the seals NOAA has dealt with with this highly specific problem have finally been fine.

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Nation World News Desk
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