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NOAA on How to Better Protect Hawaiian Monk Seals

monk seal pup NOAA.jpg
Elena Graham
The Marine Mammal Center / NOAA
The Marine Mammal Center is the lead responder for Hawaiian monk seals on Hawai‘i Island, and operates a 24-hour hotline at 808-987-0765.

A Hawaiian monk seal pup is resting in Ke Kai Ola, the Marine Mammal Center’s dedicated hospital for monk seals in Kailua-Kona. The good news is the malnourished pup has a good chance of recovering and being released back into the wild.

Michelle Barbieri heads up the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program at NOAA Fisheries. The Conversation’s Matt Fairfax spoke with her about the rescue, habitat loss, and what humans can do to protect Hawaiian monk seals.

"There are actually quite a few things that people can do to help," she said. "If you see a monk seal hauled out on the beach, it's resting, and it needs that rest and it needs that space."

Dogs at the beach should also be kept on a leash, she said.

"There have been situations where dogs have been a substantial concern, and inflicting injuries and even killing monk seals that are young," Barbieri said.

But it's not just dog owners, cat owners also have a part to play even if it seems far-fetched, she said.

"Keeping cats indoors helps prevent them from spreading a dangerous parasite in their feces and contaminating the environment with that. It's a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii and it is something that is lethal and has killed quite a few seals over the last several years," Barbieri told Hawai‘i Public Radio.

NOAA will also travel to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in early July to collect monk seal data.

This segment aired on The Conversation on June 24, 2021.

As HPR's 2021 summer intern, Matt Fairfax primarily worked with HPR's The Conversation.
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