Monk seal vaccinations
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.
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.