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Marine Mammal Center Monk Seal Outreach to Expand to Maui

December 9, 2021, 8:07 AM HST
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The Marine Mammal Center is expanding its Hawaiian monk seal outreach and education programs to Maui next spring.

The expansion is in coordination with National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Islands Regional Office, according to a press release from the Marine Mammal Center. The center’s team currently manages the Hawai‘i Island monk seal volunteer response network and is excited to begin enhancing Maui’s existing network.

Hawaiian monk seal RA20 is pictured sleeping on a Hawai‘i Island beach. Since 2014, The Marine Mammal Center has rehabilitated 37 monk seals at its hospital, Ke Kai Ola, most of which have been rescued from and returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as part of the partnership with NOAA, utilizing resources in the NWHI to identify seals in need, rescue and rehabilitate them, and give them a second chance at life. (PC: Lauren van Heukelem © The Marine Mammal Center)

These education and outreach efforts are being supported through a cooperative agreement with NOAA.

“With only a few hundred monk seals living in the Main Hawaiian Islands, the survival of each individual is critical to the recovery of the population,” said Jeff Boehm, CEO at The Marine Mammal Center. “We are honored to begin working with the Maui community, to learn from their experience and, together, to foster co-existence with monk seals and continue to conserve this endangered species in collaboration with our partners.”

NOAA Fisheries’ current monk seal haul-out response volunteers on Maui will be welcomed into the Center’s community and will begin onboarding into the Center’s volunteer program in early 2022. Recruitment for new volunteers is planned to launch in February. The Center hopes to be fully operational on Maui by spring 2022 and will continue to work closely with partners at NOAA.

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The transition will provide time for the Center’s team to learn about the current Maui monk seal outreach efforts, which include responding to seal haul-outs, molting and pupping events, the release states. It will also give the team the opportunity to engage with established volunteers and the broader community of monk seal stewards on Maui.

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“Our Maui volunteers have been nothing short of amazing,” said Nicole Davis, NOAA’s Maui marine mammal response coordinator. “As we realign volunteer management to The Marine Mammal Center, I’m confident they will be in good hands. The Center’s depth of experience and resources will help create new opportunities for our volunteers to continue supporting these endangered seals.”

This transition is a testament to the long-standing working relationship between the Center and NOAA, and the positive impact that the Center has had on Hawaiian monk seal conservation, the release states. The Center will continue to partner with NOAA throughout and beyond the transition.

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