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Hawaiian Wildlife: The Monk Seal

By: Steve Frailey Monday June 5, 2017 comments Tags: monk seal, hawaiian wildlife, save the monk seal

Steve Frailey here. On the farm, we have a stretch of beach were we can watch the Hawaiian monk seal sun bathe. The Hawaiian monk seal is thought to be the oldest seal in existence. I would like to share some amazing facts about these beautiful native creatures.


The Hawaiian name for the monk seal is "Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua" which translates “the dog that runs in rough waters”. Monk seals earned their name by being mostly solitary, and their necks resembling a monk's cowl.

  • Common Name: Hawaiian Monk Seal
  • Scientific Name: Monachus schauinslandi
  • Species Status: Endangered
  • Lifespan: 25-30 years.
  • Length: 7-7.5ft
  • Weight: 375-450lbs
  • Dive Depth: up to 1500 ft with an average of 200 ft

As their name suggests, Hawaiian monk seals found living in the Hawaiian islands, with their main breeding grounds found in the largest dedicated marine conservation Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The Caribbean monk seal, which was last seen in 1952 and considered extinct, leaves the Hawaiian monk seal the last monk seal species left on the earth.

Diet and Habitat:
Hawaiian monk seals feed on fish, octopus, crustaceans, and other small ocean organisms. Hawaiian monk seals typically spend most of their lives at sea. On land, they are usually seen sunning themselves on sandy beaches.

Female monk seals mature around 5 years and prefer the shallow water, volcanic rocks, and beaches to provide sanctuary for her pups. Pups are born between March and April with a gestation period of 10-11 months. Mother monk seals remain with their newly born pups for the first 6 weeks. She doesn't eat during that time and may lose up to 150 lbs! Afterwards, she returns to the ocean to feed leaving the pup to survive on it's own.

Conservation Status and Threats:
There are approximately 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild which considers them an endangered species. Because the Hawaiian monk seal is very sensitive to its environment, many threats cause the population to dwindle.

  • mother and pup disturbances
  • fishing net and line entanglement
  • pollution in the ocean causing disease and lack of food
  • lack of genetic diversity
  • beach erosion
  • shark attacks
  • mobbing (when a group of males ban together an attack females and pups)
  • climate change

Since 1996, NOAA fisheries have put plans into effect to restore the monk seal population by successfully removing tons of debris from the ocean. Currently, researchers are trying to increase their understanding of the monk seal in order to better protect them.

What can you do?

Happily, approximately 20% of the remaining population of Hawaiian monk seals are alive today as a direct result of conservation efforts. For this we thank you! (Mahalo!)

Below are items everyone can do to not only preserve the monk seal but all sea life:

  • keep the ocean and beaches clean
  • do our best to limit our carbon footprint
  • don't disturb wild animals in their natural habitat
  • join a local organization that focuses on wildlife conservation
  • recycle paper, plastic, and glass
  • purchase items that have been produced with recycled materials

Just like the albatross, we at Hawaiian Organic Noni do our best to allow the Hawaiian Monk Seal live as peacefully and natural as possible on our beaches. They come and go as they please without interference. We want to thank you for support us and our animal conservation efforts!




Steve Frailey

About the Author: Steve Frailey

My wife and I (Steve Frailey) moved to Kauai, Hawaii in 1982 from our organic farm in California. There were no roads, electricity, water or buildings but lots of Noni trees (Morinda Citrifolia) in our valley. We also developed a deep relationship with Noni that was growing all through our valley.  Today we run our Hawaiian Organic Noni farm, and share the gift of health with people throughout the world.