Field Staff Monitor Monk Seal Population in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Scientists from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center established summer field camps in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to collect population data on the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Camps were deployed at all six major Hawaiian monk seal breeding locations.

The 2009 field season began with camps at French Frigate Shoals (FFS), Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Reef and Kure Atoll. Camps were established with the help of crew on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette and will remain active until they are dismantled in mid- to late August. In the early part of the Sette expedition, shore parties counted monk seals present at Nihoa Island and Necker Island. Population assessment research is also being conducted during several intervals at Midway Atoll, site of the sixth major population.

By mid-June, at least 85 monk seal pups had been born in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands-16 at FFS, 26 at Laysan, 15 at Lisianski, 11 at Pearl and Hermes, 6 at Midway, and 11 at Kure. In addition, at least 13 pups had been born in the main Hawaiian Islands-3 on Ni'ihau, 4 on Kauai, 4 on Molokai, and one each on Oahu and Maui. A majority of the pups tagged in 2008 had been sighted as yearlings at Lisianski Island and thus are known to have survived the winter. So far, the proportion of yearlings re-sighted at other sites had been substantially lower, with the potential to increase as the season progresses.