To advance the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal through the following:
Limit human presence and disturbance on beaches by changing restoration and monitoring practices.
Provide outreach, education, and supplemental background reading material to Kure staff and volunteers on the critical status of the Hawaiian monk seal
Reduce impact of human interactions by implementing NMFS protocols for all Kure occupants when working around monk seals
Prevent entanglement through marine debris removal
Conserve Hawaiian monk seal habitat through Habitat Restoration Project
Support and facilitate emergency response for monk seals
Provide year-round presence for ongoing habitat restoration, enforcement, monitoring, protection, and prevention.
The monitoring objectives implemented by NMFS carried out on Kure Atoll are to record survival factors, pregnant females, pupping, and documenting the physical condition of immature monk seals.
Duties for monk seal monitoring include: monitoring surveys, disentangling seals, tagging weaned pups, conducting necropsies, bleach marking, collecting scat and spew, and documenting survival factors and births. Weekly reports are sent to NMFS from Kure, and data and photographs are entered into the NMFS database. When NMFS personnel are present DLNR and KAC (Kure Atoll Conservancy) personnel assist with tagging weaned pup, disentangling seals, and supporting camp set-up and break-down.
One of the most important ways that the State prevents unnecessary disturbance to seals and turtles is by restricting the use of and access to Kure beaches.
State of Hawaii personnel also protect monk seals by tagging weaned pups, monitoring seals for survival factors, disentangle seals caught in plastic pollution (aka,marine debris) and, finally, removing hazardous plastic pollution from the lagoon and beaches.
Weekly or bi-weekly surveys and incidental spot checks increase our chances to intercept and document entangled animals.
Entanglements have major impacts on the monk seal population. With a low population, disentangling one female has a significantly positive impact on the population as one female can produce upwards of 10 or more pups in her lifetime.
Between 2002 to 2012, DLNR personnel participated in 9 disentanglements of Hawaiian monk seals (about 10% of the population of resident seals on Kure).
Between 2002-2018 there have been 25 instances of seals entangled at Kure, 21 of which were released. The other 4 escaped unaided.
Monk Seal Field Camps on Kure
The National Marine Fisheries Science (NMFS) usually stations 1 or 2 biological field technicians on Kure for 1-4 months to monitor monk seals during the summer. DLNR takes a collaborative approach to the efforts with monk seals and shares living quarters, office space, kitchen facilities, among other areas as necessary.
When NMFS personnel are not on-island, the DLNR personnel designated as Cooperating Investigators continue to conduct weekly or bi-weekly surveys under NMFS Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit. These surveys provide more opportunities to intercept and document injured or entangled animals.
Supporting Monk Seals Every Way We can
For the past 20 years, the State of Hawaii has supported the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal population on Kure Atoll by contributing to the Marine Mammal Research Program run by the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS). Kure Atoll Conservancy has contributed to the recovery program since 2010 by hiring contractors and helping volunteers with expenses.