Translocation of Hawaiian Monk Seals From the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the Main Islands, Deferred

The Hawaiian monk seal research program permit application for conducting activities implementing the monk seal recovery program was published yesterday in the Federal Register.

Monk Seal Institute

The application has deferred for up to 5 years, the proposed translocation of juvenile monk seals from the NWHI to the main islands; the permit application specifically states “no seals would be moved from the NWHI to the MHI.” The merits of the translocation proposal have been debated for the last several years among marine scientists, ocean users and conservationists. (See: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/monkseal16632.htm).

According to Trisha Kehaulani Watson, who represents the Marine Conservation Institute in Hawai‘i, the deferral was the appropriate move at this time but should be reconsidered for future permit applications based on the seal’s recovery progress over the next five years:

“Translocation of a few seals to the main islands, and then returning them to the NWHI as adults, was something NMFS wanted to try as an experiment to see if it could build up the subpopulation of seals in the NWHI which is currently declining.  It was a novel idea, and not everyone agreed it would work. But NMFS deserves credit for considering it as one measure to maintain the monk seal as part of Hawai‘i’s ‘ohana.  Translocations of individual seals within the main islands are allowed under the permit application, and we support these as necessary to protect their important role in Hawai‘i’s ecology and culture.  Moving seals within the MHI to appropriate locations where they can thrive will be an increasingly important tool as the population of monk seals continues to naturally increase in the main islands.”

“Frankly,” said Watson, “the Hawai‘i office of NMFS is in no position to finance an expensive translocation project right now because the agency’s budget for the monk seal recovery program has been cut by NOAA’s managers from around $5. 5 million in 2010 to roughly $3.5 million in 2012, and further cuts may be in the offing.  NMFS Hawai‘i cannot even pay for things it should be doing now like mounting effective outreach and volunteer programs, responding to the growing number of harmful human actions toward monk seals, and financing its scientific research projects, including its summer research camp in the NWHI.  The focus of the limited funds available needs to be on activities in Papahānaumokuākea and on managing the seal population currently in the main Hawaiian Islands.”

“If the people of Hawai‘i and across the United States want to see the monk seal properly managed and recovered,” she said, “they are going to have to ask their congressional delegation to intervene on the NOAA budget when it comes before the Congress this spring.” Watson noted that 30% of the seals seen alive today are alive because of interventions made by seal managers in Hawai‘i. “That’s a terrific record achieved by NMFS,” she said.

See our Monk Seal Fact Sheet for further information.

About Marine Conservation Institute

Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting marine ecosystems. We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations in the United States and around the world to fashion solutions to problems affecting marine ecosystems which are long lasting and compatible with sustainable ocean use. Honua Consulting represents Marine Conservation Institute in Hawai`i.

 

One Response

  1. Pretty conservative conservation for an endangered species still on the decline.

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