Monk Seal Survival Enhancement Research Continues at Laysan Island and French Frigate Shoals

Hawaiian monk seal researchers administer dewormer medication to a juvenile monk seal at Laysan 
            Island.
Hawaiian monk seal researchers administer dewormer medication to a juvenile monk seal at Laysan Island.

In an effort to assist the recovery of endangered Hawaiian monk seals, researchers in the Center's Protected Species Division are seeking ways to increase the seals’ survival. As part of this research, the monk seal Survival Enhancement (SE) Program continued its monk seal deworming trial at Laysan Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The objective of the study is to rid juvenile seals of parasitic worms, thereby increasing the seals' growth and chances of survival. In May, program staff completed a fourth treatment of seals at Laysan with the help of visiting veterinarian Eric Anderson, and a fifth treatment with visiting veterinarian Heather Harris in August. The new cohort of 28 pups born on Laysan in 2010 will be added to the deworming study in November.

Besides the deworming research, the SE Program also trained and deployed a team of two shark scientists to French Frigate Shoals (FFS) to selectively remove Galapagos sharks near 3 seal pupping islets. The scientists were transported to FFS in July on the chartered vessel Kahana. Besides the scientific team, the Kahana field party included 3 native Hawaiian cultural practitioners. En route to Laysan, the vessel took the group to other islands, including Ka'ula, Nihoa and Mokamanamana, where traditional Native Hawaiian ceremonies were conducted.

Prior to the scientific team's arrival at FFS, 4 pups from the 2010 cohort had been lost to sharks. Within their first few days at the atoll, the team removed 1 Galapagos shark at Trig Island. Although efforts to remove sharks continued until September 1, no other shark activity was detected at Trig. However, shark activity was observed at Gin Island and Little Gin Island. Overall, 10 incidents of shark predation on pups were documented at FFS this season; 8 of these pups did not survive.