National Attention on Monk Seal Issue Highlights Need for Local Program
Response to New York Times Magazine article: Local fishermen working together with the Marine Conservation Institute to understand the issues and help create an attitude of coexistence.
HONOLULU, HI (May 8, 2013) – A New York Times Magazine article investigating the monk seal killings on Kaua‘i and Moloka‘i in 2011 and 2012 has revived attention to the conflict over the protection of this highly endangered marine mammal. In “Who Would Kill a Monk Seal?” writer Jon Mooallem, describes the complex conservation issues that plague the island of Kaua‘i, including conflict over the protection of shearwater birds and nene goose.
The Marine Conservation Institute, a non-profit organization, hopes its work on Kaua’i will help resolve the conflict over the seal. Marine Conservation Institute has been working with Kaua‘i residents to investigate and resolve the social struggles prompted by federal conservation actions on the Garden Island.
“We are community advocates,” explains fisherman Matt Sproat, who works with the Marine Conservation Institute in an effort to understand the ongoing conflict and create solutions that foster coexistence between local communities and monk seals. Sproat continues, “We are here to listen to the community and work with the community, because we know that local fisherman and ocean users are just people like us who want to make sure their livelihoods and rights are protected. We believe there is a way to balance protecting the livelihoods of local people with the needs of monk seals.”
Sproat and his team are currently conducting interviews and focus groups across Kaua‘i, gathering information for a report that aims to understand and address interactions between ocean users and monk seals. The report will craft a number of recommendations for NOAA and DLNR to help reduce and mitigate conflict, and improve government responsiveness to community needs and concerns.
“The people of Kaua‘i are good people. They love their ‘āina and they love their ocean,” says Sproat. He continues, “We are here to work with the community in finding solutions that work for everybody, then we will advocate to see those solutions implemented at all levels of government.”
Residents interested in participating in the interviews or focus groups, or learning more about the project, should contact Matt Sproat.
The Marine Conservation Institute expects to have a draft of the report completed by Fall 2013.
About Marine Conservation Institute
Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting marine ecosystems. We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations around the world to fashion sustainable solutions compatible with healthy, living oceans.
How Old Are Monk Seals?
The Hawaiian monk seal is over 10 million years old. While references to the monk seal in Hawaiian literature are rare, they do exist. Our kūpuna identified the seal by various names, including `Īlioholoikauaua and nā mea hulu, among others. There are kūpuna who have traditional knowledge about the monk seal and its presence in pre-contact Hawai`i.
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. Part of the “true seal” family, Phocidae, they are one of only two remaining monk seal species; the other is the Mediterranean monk seal. A third species, the Caribbean monk seal, is extinct. Isolated from their closest relative 3-11 million years ago, Hawaiian monk seals are considered a “living fossil” because they appear to be relatively unchanged from prehistoric times.
Nā Mea Hulu is a project by Honua Consulting, in partnership with Marine Conservation Institute. The goal is to find ways to protect the dwindling monk seal population without impacting the practices and livelihoods of Hawaiians and fisherman. We need your help. There are a range of activities related to the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal population that can use the participation of the Hawaiian community including research efforts, public comment opportunities, working groups, volunteer projects and more!
As children of Kanaloa, Hawaiians need to discuss the role of the monk seal in modern Hawai`i. Every child of Hawai`i is important; the Hawaiian monk seal is no exception. The seals are on the verge of extinction and they need our help.
Monk Seal Facts
- Type: Mammal
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Phocidae
- Genus: Monachus
- Species: schauinslandi
- Diet: Carnivore