Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals This Sept. 15, 2016 file photo shows a Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, on a Waikiki beach in Honolulu. Federal wildlife biologists say the population of endangered Hawaiian monk seals has grown 3 percent a year for the past three years. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals
Lexile

The population of Hawaiian monk seals - one of the world's most critically endangered marine mammals - has been increasing 3 percent a year for the past three years, federal wildlife officials said Jan. 24.
 
There are now about 1,400 of the seals in the wild, said Charles Littnan. He is lead scientist of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
"This is phenomenal, hopeful news for the population," Littnan told reporters in Honolulu. "Yet we have a long way to go to recovery."
 
The population has experienced increases in the past, including the mid-2000s. But Littnan characterized those as minor blips.
 
Hawaiian monk seals declined in numbers for years, most recently as juveniles struggled to compete for food with large fish and sharks in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is a mostly uninhabited stretch of tiny atolls that includes Midway.
 
Sharks also attacked recently weaned seals at French Frigate Shoals, one of the chain's most pristine atolls.
 
At one point, only one in five juveniles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lived to adulthood.
 
Littnan said more juveniles are surviving. This is in part because of programs like those that disentangle seals from marine debris and take malnourished young seals to a Big Island seal hospital to nurse them back to health.
 
Littnan says about 30 percent of Hawaiian monk seals are alive because of the programs.
 
He also attributed the rebound to broader environmental changes, such as El Nino. That is a periodic warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather globally. El Nino patterns can help boost the food supply for the seals that eat squid, eels, crab and other marine life.
 
The population in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is estimated at about 1,100. The population in the Main Hawaiian Islands, home to Honolulu and other cities, is 300. The population in the main islands was growing for many years but has leveled out and stabilized, Littnan said.
 
The monk seal population had been declining since the 1950s. Back then, federal authorities counted 3,400 seals on Northwestern Hawaiian Island beaches. Federal officials want to return the population to that level.
 
Littnan cautioned that the population increase could shift radically.
 
"This should be a bright spark, a glimmer of hope, that thing that fuels conservation. It shouldn't breed complacency," he said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Where are young seals more vulnerable?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (11)
  • kimberlyc-
    2/08/2017 - 08:41 a.m.

    young seals are more vulnerable in Northwestern Hawaiian island beaches

  • alexd1-bur
    2/08/2017 - 08:42 a.m.

    The seals are vulnerable in where many shark infested areas because this what the sharks eat a lot of. It makes me sad that only 5 juveniles have lived to their adulthood. But I like how scientist are trying to move where they live to a place that's not dangerous for them live. It's called el nino, there's also a big span of food there which makes it even more easier.

  • arianam-
    2/08/2017 - 08:43 a.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable out in the open ocean. There they have to compete with sharks for their food and survival. Also, in the story it mentions marine debris.There is a lot of stuff from humans that are thrown into the ocean, so the seals get tangled up in it, or play around with it.

  • nicholash2003-
    2/08/2017 - 08:45 a.m.

    Where young seals are more vulnerable I think is Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

  • shyeg-
    2/10/2017 - 08:43 a.m.

    The young seals are more vulnerable in places where there are more sharks. This is because the young seals are what the sharks eat. It's sad that not many of them live to adulthood, but it is very helpful that the scientists are trying to help them by moving them somewhere where it is not dangerous for them to live and be free.

  • mannyd-ver
    2/10/2017 - 12:12 p.m.

    Elite the scientist said it can also be El Nino that can be causeing them to die. I can also effect the sharks because that's what sharks mostly eat through there life.

  • bryanl-ver
    2/10/2017 - 03:32 p.m.

    I find it interesting that the seals started to decrease in the 1950's and they were at 3,400. And now they counted 1,400 seals, I also found it interesting that 30% of the seals are being saved because of the program. The scientist say that they're mostly in the northern Hawaii area because thats their homeland, there are 1,100 In the northern Hawaii area and 300 in other cities.

  • hcicily-dav
    2/13/2017 - 05:24 p.m.

    "Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals" is a good article about the hope for vulnerable seals from Hawaii. These seals have been declining since the 1950's. "'There are now about 1,400 of the seals in the wild', said Charles Littnan." Seals numbers are increasing which is a huge deal. Seals have decreased over the years because they are so vulnerable to their predators like sharks. With the help of programs that rescue seals and breed and help them, then the numbers of seals will definitely increase more. Hopefully soon these seals won't be near extinction anymore and they can finally be in the clear.

  • hevan-dav
    2/16/2017 - 06:20 p.m.

    In response to "Hopes rise for Hawaiian monk seals" Young seals are more vulnerable in where many shark infested areas are. They are also more vulnerable in the open ocean where any predator could be lurking. A third place is where the marine debris is.

  • danielm-pel
    2/17/2017 - 03:23 p.m.

    Young seals are more vulnerable in Northwestern Hawaiian island beaches.

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