About MSF: Current Projects

The Hawaiian monk seal is at the brink of extinction. In 1976, they were added to the list of endangered species, but even over 30 years later, they are one of the most threatened species on the planet. The International Union for Conservation of Natures now classifies them as critically endangered, meaning that the population is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. If they are to survive, focused scientific, education, protection and recovery programs are needed.

Protection

Response:  The Monk Seal Foundation manages the monk seal response teams on the Islands of O’ahu and Moloka’i. The response network consists of hundreds of trained volunteers who protect seals that have hauled out onto a beach to rest or pup. At these haul-outs, our volunteers also engage in outreach and public awareness efforts to educate the community about monk seals, their natural role in the Hawaiian archipelago, their status as critically endangered, current conservation efforts to save them, responsible wildlife viewing, and the possibility of coexistence among humans and seals.

Supporting NOAA:  The Foundation collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government agency appointed jurisdiction over Hawaiian monk seals. We support the agency’s monk seal management plans by assisting with the tracking and identification of seals, false injury/death reports, and special needs cases (such as an entanglement, stranding or harassment). We also work to support the NOAA-managed monk seal response teams on Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai.

Education Programs

School Education:  The Monk Seal Foundation has a Department of Education approved curriculum for grades K-12 that we offer to schools in O’ahu, Moloka’i, and Maui. A veteran volunteer teaches a free and informative 45-60 minute presentation about Hawaiian monk seals, threats to their survival, current conservation initiatives, and responsible wildlife viewing techniques.

Docent Programs:  The Foundation has docent programs at two local aquariums, Seal Life Park in O’ahu and Maui Ocean Center in Maui, where veteran volunteers host an education booth to inform residents and tourists of monk seal conservation efforts. The booths are designed to be informative to both adults and children. To reach the largest audience, we consistently attend Seal Life Park weekly and Maui Ocean Center bimonthly on weekend days.

Distribution of Educational Materials: The Foundation distributes educational brochures, pamphlets, and information cards to coastal hotels, condominiums, and businesses. This is important because these entities or their customers/residents are often the first to spot a monk seal coming ashore. By informing the businesses of what to do, we are better protecting the seals because the coastal businesses know who to contact and how. Some of the businesses have even evolved into our allies, training their staff to clear space for seals that haul out. This has resulted in seals frequenting specific beaches where they are consistently accommodated for, which is significant for the species’ recovery.

Annual Wyland Art Contest: We cohost the annual ‘Conservation through Art’ contest with the Wyland Foundation, of which the famous environmental artist, Wyland, is a judge. The contest is offered to all students in public and private schools in grades K-12. The goal of the contest is to engage and inspire students to learn more about the Hawaiian monk seal and its unique role in Hawaii’s ecosystem. The Monk Seal Foundation and the Wyland Foundation both believe a pivotal part of any conservation effort is building awareness among our future leaders. 

Public Service Announcements:  In collaboration with other non-profits and government agencies we produce and promote public service announcements about the status of the endangered Hawaiian monk seals and to promote responsible viewing of seals on beaches. The ads run from 2-8 minutes and feature video footage of monk seals coupled with facts and compelling messages. They have helped to change public attitudes and behaviors towards monk seals, as well as to enhance respect for the species.

COMING SOON: Podcast:  The Monk Seal Foundation produces a podcast entitled Haswaii’s Most Endangered: Living on the Edge of Extinction. We interview leading scientists in the monk seal conservation community, our veteran volunteers, experts from NOAA, and representatives from other marine organizations. The podcasts are designed to bring awareness to the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal by relaying interesting stories from the field and divulging up-to-the-minute information from those most active in conservation efforts.

Outreach Events: We routinely attend events across the state where we are able to reach out to community members and build public awareness of monk seal conservation needs. Our staff and volunteers host booths supplied with informative brochures and pamphlets, intriguing visual displays and interactive props and games. These events serve as a key mechanism for us to educate residents about monk seals, listen to community members’ concerns, and spread our message to new audiences.

Science
The Monk Seal Foundation, in partnership with NOAA, National Geographic, and The Marine Mammal Center, is one of the founding members of a three year scientific research study of monk seals in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The goal is to understand and share images of the feeding and underwater behavior of Hawaiian monk seals, while also laying to rest many of the myths and misconceptions regarding monk seals and their impact on the local marine environment and its resources.  Scientists will deploy seal-borne video cameras to study how monk seals feed and use their marine habitat. The discoveries will be critical to understanding the seals’ ecology, ensuring their continued existence, and building a culture of coexistence between man and seal. You can learn more about this project by visiting our Hōʻike ā Maka Project Page.
Partnerships For Recovery

As part of the Monk Seal Foundation’s capacity building efforts, we actively partner with other organizations that are working to assist the Hawaiian monk seal. This includes developing and working on collaborative education efforts as well as raising needed funds for those organizations who meet a critical need in the area of Hawaiian monk seal recovery. Currently, we are raising funds for the long term care of non-releasable seals who due to critical injuries or other environmental factors cannot survive in the wild. For more information, visit our Pu'uhonua Initiative Page.

Do you have a request?

We believe that the Monk Seal Foundation is an invaluable resource in the community and we are always looking to find new ways of interacting with potential and existing supporters. If you have an idea for a program or want to collaborate with the Monk Seal Foundation, please contact us!

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