You may have heard of me because I’m one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world (although I guess that’s not something to brag about). We’re mainly threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, food availability, disease and predation, and although many protections are in place our numbers have continued to fall. We certainly struggle with marine debris: the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands act like a net in the North Pacific, ensnaring large amounts of drifting fishing gear and debris on its fringing reefs and sandy shores. The daily accumulation of large amounts of debris—almost entirely plastics— on Midway’s shores bothers us as we haul out on its beaches and forage in the atoll’s shallow waters. With only about 1,400 of us remaining, it’s more important than ever to keep our habitat healthy and trash-free! My other monk seal relatives are even bigger trouble—there are only 300-600 Mediterranean monk seals left, and the Caribbean monk seal went extinct in the 1970s. Fortunately, recent studies are showing a small but steady increase to our population in the Hawaiian Islands.
Did You Know?
I get my name from my folds of skin that resemble a monk’s robe, and am typically spotted alone or in small groups of my fellow seals.
I only hang out on a few remote islands in northwestern Hawaii where I can rest on nice, calm beaches when I’m not out at sea. The coral reefs surrounding the islands are perfect for hunting for food. We’re considered endemic, meaning we’re not found anywhere else in the world! Unlike many of my seal relatives, I’m not a fan of the cold weather. I will stick to the crystal clear waters of the south Pacific, thank you very much. It’s paradise!
Some of my habitat was recently protected. When President Obama established the Papahānaumokuākea National Monument, he set aside an area that’s 582,578 square miles! That’s nearly four times the size of California, 105 times larger than Connecticut and ten times larger than Iowa.
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