Group seeks seal-recovery funds
Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's recovery plan for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population falls short, critics charge.
DRAWING ATTENTION FOR MONK SEALS|
The Marine Conservation Biology Institute is leading a campaign to advocate for more funding to support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's recovery plan for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population.
The recovery plan, which took effect in August, called for an estimated $35.9 million over a five-year span, but only $2.2 million of a $40 million budget for the National Marine Fisheries Pacific Islands Region was appropriated was appropriated for fiscal year 2008 to support the recovery plan. MCBI plans to lead a coalition of supporters to Washington, D.C., to increase funding to $7 million a year.
For more information on endangered Hawaiian monk seals and how the public can help, go to www.mcbi.org/what/monk_seals.html.
The Marine Conservation Biology Institute is leading a national campaign to urge congressional lawmakers as well as the U.S. Department of Commerce to allocate more.
Hawaii Program Director Keiko Bonk said the institute is focusing now on Hawaii to build a collective, unanimous effort to support the campaign to protect what is described as the "most endangered mammal in America."
For fiscal year 2008, only $2.2 million was appropriated for the National Marine Fisheries Service's Pacific Islands' Region monk seal recovery plan. The same amount is expected to be appropriated in fiscal year 2009, according to Mike Tosatto, deputy regional administrator.
Bill Chandler, vice president of government affairs for the institute, based in Washington, D.C., plans to lead a coalition to Washington to urge an increase in funding to an estimated $7 million a year.
The plan, which took effect in August, calls for research and management that includes capture and care of juvenile females, study of the population's food supply, marine debris removal from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a facility to care for wounded and abandoned seals, and support for ongoing education programs in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian monk seal, found only in Hawaii, was listed as an endangered species in 1976.
Lance Morgan, institute vice president for science, said last year marked a 20-year decline in population.
Factors include shark predation, entanglement, overfishing and climate change, but experts suspect other, unknown factors are at work.
The current monk seal population is estimated at 1,100. Ninety percent of them live in the Papahanaumokuakea monument. The remainder live in the main Hawaiian islands, most on Kauai.
Morgan said the current rate of decline is about 4 percent a year. He predicts the population will drop below 1,000 within the next few years.
"By 2025 the population may be half of what it is right now," Morgan said. At the current rate, he said, the species could be extinct by the end of the century.
Counts of population are conducted in April and October.
Charles Littnan, head of NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, said cuts have reduced staffing and the number of field trips to the monument to assess the seal population.
"If we are going to carry out the scientific and management efforts that have been highlighted in the recovery plan, we'll need those supported," Littnan said.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
A total of $2.2 million of a $40 million budget for the National Marine Fisheries Pacific Islands Region was appropriated for fiscal year 2008 to support the recovery plan for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal population. The information box on this page originally did not include the year of the appropriation.