FACT OF THE WEEK: Hawaii’s State Mammal is Critically Endangered

MORE ON THIS: To native Hawaiians, this furry creature may be referred to as ‘llioholoikauaua, but you personally know them as Hawaiian monk seals. These monk seals are endemic, meaning they are only found in Hawai‘i. They are one of the most endangered animals in the world, with their population of about 1,100 still declining.

These marine mammals are semiaquatic, spending most of their time at sea and some of their time on land.  “Hauling out” is a process where the seal goes onto the beaches to sleep, nurse, molt and rest. Here, a mother will nurse her pup for about 6 weeks and then the roughly 200-pound pup will have to fend for itself. An adult will grow from 6 to 7.5 feet in length and will weight between 375 to 600 pounds. They are generalist feeders, feeding on what is readily available, such as squid, eel, octopi, fish, and crustaceans.

Continue reading

A response to “Shark Week” from Maui

Who’s heard the adage, “Live every week like it’s Shark Week”? Though Discovery Channel’s TV extravaganza has come and gone, the repercussions from this wildly popular special are still echoing here on Maui, especially after the airing of a program named Sharkageddon that focuses on recent shark attacks in Hawai’i.

Though we also get excited when seeing footage of big, toothy, graceful elasmobranchs, some of the opinions presented as “facts” in Sharkageddon are truly troubling to us here at Pacific Whale Foundation. This program discussed the perceived spike in shark attacks in 2013 in Hawaii and attempts to explain why this occurred. Unfortunately, in the excitement to create a show full of ominous music and cliffhanging moments, the producers may have run out of time to fact check some of their findings. Though I am not currently involved in any specific shark research, as a marine scientist and steward of the marine environment, I felt the need to address some of the “findings” from Sharkageddon and explain why it might not be time to be scared out of the water just yet.

Continue reading