The Green Leaf

Monk seal vaccinations

February 22nd, 2016
Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.

Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.

In an effort to further protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, NOAA Fisheries announced the beginning of routine vaccinations of the pinnipeds on Oahu.

The proactive measure, announced Feb. 19, is part of a concerted effort to protect the monk seals in advance against morbillivirus, a disease which could possibly be passed on to them via unvaccinated dogs with distemper or other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and other wayward seal species. There is no disease outbreak affecting Hawaiian monk seals at this time.

Morbillivirus, once introduced into seals, can spread rapidly through respiratory secretions. Outbreaks of morbillivirus have caused the deaths of thousands of dolphins and seals in other parts of the world. Hawaiian monk seals are at risk due to a lack of immunity to morbillivirus and poor genetic diversity.

Initial efforts will focus on Oahu, and continue until October.

The outlook for Hawaiian monk seals, is improving, slowly but surely, according to the latest State of the Seal address in mid-February, with the population now at 1,272 compared to about 1,100. More seal pups were born across the archipelago in the last year compared to previous years. Besides vaccinations, officials are intervening with disentanglement and de-hooking efforts.

2060609-151 CTY MONK SEALS On Thursday, June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. While pups have been born on Rabbit Island for the last three years, this is the first seal born on Oahu in a public area since 1998. NOAA Fisheries Service and Oahu Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team staff and volunteers moniter the site and monk seals. Basically, all I saw was the monk seals just laying on the sand with the baby moving around the mother. The mother didn't move very much. When she did move, the baby also followed her closely. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.

On June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of NOAA's eight selected "Species in the Spotlight" with its own five-year action plan. The other species include the Atlantic Salmon in the Gulf of Maine; central California coast coho; Beluga Whale of Cook inlet; Pacific Leatherback sea turtle; winter-run Chinook of Sacramento River; southern resident Killer Whale and white abalone.

 

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