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Hawaiian monk seal. Photo courtesy of Kent Backman

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources recently announced it is pleased the federal government has incorporated state input into new rules aimed at further protection for the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, by focusing protection on areas most important for foraging, pupping and resting.

“Hawai‘i has a responsibility to protect our natural and cultural heritage,” DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case said in a press release. “A part of that is making sure that our very special, unique, native Hawaiian monk seals have safe places to thrive. It is a shared responsibility among the people, the state and the federal government. Monk seals are protected under state and federal law even without critical habitat, and this habitat rule will not impact most activities, like swimming, surfing, boating, fishing and gathering.”

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Services recently finalized the rule that identifies coastal areas in the Main Hawaiian Islands as critical habitat. This was in response to a petition by a local advocacy group, KAHEA; the Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, and two other environmental organizations.

Hawaiian monk seal. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Hawaiian monk seal. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Hawaiian monk seals face extinction and are one of most endangered marine mammals in the world, with about 200 monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands.

“We look forward to enhanced state and federal co-management of monk seals throughout Hawai‘i,” Case said. “Critical habitat helps manage federal activities to avoid habitat destruction. Most fishermen and other ocean users will nev