Sealing the Numbers

Hawaiian monk seals on Molokai to be counted.

By Catherine Cluett

On Saturday , Oct. 18, about 20 NOAA volunteers will participate in a twice-yearly count of Hawaiian monk seals on Molokai. The purpose of the count is to track seal activity and gather information about the recovering species, says Julie Lopez, island volunteer coordinator for the count.

Volunteers will cover the East End, West End, Mo`omomi Beach, and Kalaupapa in their count.

The Hawaiin monk seal was hunted to near extinction in the mid 1800’s. Though most monk seals live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, sightings have increased in recent years in the main Hawaiian Islands, according to a 2000 study by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The species was listed as “endangered” under the US endangered Species Act in 1976.

Archeologist Paul Rosendahl states that Hawaiian monk seal remains from as early as 1400 to 1750 AD have been found in carbon dating studies of artifact material found in the main Hawaiian Islands.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of only two mammals endemic to Hawaii (originating here and found no where else), according to Thea Johanos-Kam of NOAA. The other species is the hoary bat.

“Monk seals are fully capable of swimming among the various islands in the archipelago and there is no reason why they wouldn’t have been in the main islands before human arrival 1500 to1600 years ago,” says Johanos-Kam.

For more information about the count or monk seals on Molokai, contact Lopez at 567-6518.


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