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Marine Mammals
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 Hawaiian Monk Seal

Image Credit: NOAA

 Hawaiian Monk Seal
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 National Marine Sanctuaries Where Hawaiian Monk Seals Can Be Found:
  Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale

 Related Environmental Issues:
  Point Source - Oil Spills
Non-Point Source - Runoff
Climate Change

 Activities Related to Hawaiian Monk Seals:

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Scientific Name: Monachus schauinslandi

Category: Pinnipeds

Hawaiian monk seals are named for their bald bodies, their solitary nature, and the hood-like fold of skin behind their head that resembles a monk's hood. Their Hawaiian name is Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua, meaning "the dog that runs in rough (seas)." Interestingly, Hawaiian monk seals are thought of as living fossils because their current body structure has changed very little compared to fossils from 15 million years ago. They are an endangered species that live almost exclusively in the waters surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaiian monk seals grow to about 2 meters (about 7 feet) in length and weigh between 180-275 kilograms (400 and 600 pounds). Female seals are usually larger than males. Females begin to have pups when they are about six years old and have one pup at a time, usually between March and June.

Hawaiian monk seals do not migrate seasonally like other seals. However, they do travel many miles in the Hawaiian Islands region and spend months at sea without coming to shore. Monk seals eat fishes, octopuses, eels, and spiny lobsters found in shallow waters close to shore.

The main predator of the Hawaiian monk seal is the shark. However, human hunting and commercial fishing have also significantly affected the population throughout history. The current population is estimated to be about 1,500 individuals, making them one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

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