KAILUA-KONA — A record 48 Hawaiian monk seal pups were born in the main Hawaiian Islands in 2019, officials said.
The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program's 2019 population assessment found the number remained about the same as the 2018 count of 1,400 seals, West Hawaii Today reported Thursday.
About 1,100 seals reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, while around 300 seals make their homes in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii Island's only pup born in 2019 was Kaulana, a male monk seal born to RA20 in March 2019 on a Kona Coast beach. The pup was RA20's second successful birth at the same site, following the birth of Manuiwa in February 2018.
The research program operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the population across the main and northwestern islands has shown signs of recovery in recent years.
The population increased at an average rate of about 2% in the past seven years, the program said.
"The 2019 results provide strong evidence that the number of seals in this region has been growing since at least 2013," the research program said in a statement Wednesday.
Field biologists lived and worked on Hawaii's remote, northwestern islands for 3 to 5 months to help compile the population data, the program said.
The Hawaiian monk seal population faces continuing threats including toxoplasma, fisheries interactions and intentional killings, the program said.
To mitigate the threats, program officials and partners conducted life-saving interventions in 2019.
The interventions included removing marine debris from 12 entangled seals in the northwestern islands and from two seals in the main islands. Program officials removed fish hooks from 21 seals and moved 14 pups from areas with high instances of shark attacks.
A further nine seals were removed from male seal aggression within the northwestern islands, the program said.