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The Hawaiian Monk Seal

By Jonathan Howery

A large yet gentle creature you may encounter on the Hawaii Turtle Tours is the The Hawaiian Monk Seal. As one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, The Hawaiian monk seal is the rarest seal or sea lion in US waters. In the late 19th century these seals were hunted to the brink of extinction. The Hawaiian monk seals population is currently declining at 4 percent each year. It is estimated that fewer than 1,200 individuals survive. Over the next 3 to 4 years, biologists believe only 1,000 will survive making this species one of the world’s most endangered.

The monk seal weighs about 375 to 450 pounds and is 7 to 7 1/2 feet in length. Interestingly, the females are somewhat larger than males and their pups are about 35 pounds when born and about 3 feet in length. The newborn pups are black in color. The adults have a silvery colored back with lighter creamy coloration on their underside. The back of the males typically darken with age. The monk seals typically lives to be 25 to 30 years old.

The Hawaiian monk seals thrive in warm subtropical waters where they spend over half their time in the ocean. They use waters surrounding the islands, and areas on reefs and submerged banks. These seals can be found spending time in deep-water coral beds as well. When on land, the monk seals breed and use shallow waters of sandy, protected beaches when pupping. Monk seals are frequently seen relaxing on shorelines during the day.

Monk seals feed on a variety of prey; crustaceans, fish, and cephalopods. They change their diet by their age, sex, and location. The adult seals are night hunters in 60 to 300 feet deep waters while younger pups spend more time hunting sorts hiding in the sand or under rocks during the day time. Monk seals have also been known to forage deeper than 1,000 feet to prey on eels and other sea organisms.

Enjoy your vacation here in the lovely Hawaiian Islands and if you have any questions about Hawaii Turtle Tours or about this blog, feel free to email at


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