A pregnant monk seal was shot and killed last year in Kauai. The man who killed the two endangered animals was arrested and sentenced to ninety days in jail, and given a $25 fine.
Very recently a bill was passed which strengthens punishment for violation of the Endangered Species Act. Harming an endangered monk seal in Hawaii now carries penalties of up to five years in prison.
Why the stiffer penalty? Monk seals in Hawaii today number only about 1,100. Around the main islands there are 80-100. They are one of the most endangered mammals in the United States. Most of them live in remote northwestern parts of Hawaii, far away from humans. Research has shown monk seals are very sensitive to encroachment into their habitats. If humans approach their breeding grounds, they are likely to leave them and not return. A monk seal factsheet states, “A mother seal may even abandon her pup if she is bothered, and every pup’s survival is important for the recovery of the species.” It has been reported that survival rates of monk seal pups are now less than fifteen percent. The total monk seal population in Hawaii is declining every year.
The National Marine Fisheries guidelines for viewing Monk Seals are:
- When viewing a monk seal on the beach, observe them from at least 150 feet away and limit your observation time to one-half hour.
- Never attempt to swim with or touch a Hawaiian monk seal. They are wild animals and have been known to be aggressive and bite humans.
- Keep your pet on a leash at all times in the presence of seals. Seals can be aggressive and have been known to bite dogs.
One of the main causes of injury and death to the seals is entanglement in old fish equipment and nets. If you ever see a monk seal caught in anything, you can help them by contacting the phone numbers below. Also, contact authorities if you ever see anyone harassing, harming, or coming too close to monk seals.
Marine Mammal Stranding/Entanglement Hotline: 1-888-256-9840
Hawaiian Monk Seal Sightings Hotline: (808) 983-2958 (808) 220-7802
Another type of monk seal, the Carribean, was driven into extinction by human activities.