Honolulu, HI (May 8, 2012) - A new research and outreach program supported by National Geographic, several Non-governmental organizations and NOAA Fisheries will be working with Hawaii’s students and ocean users to understand the underwater world of monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands. The team will be placing small cameras (Crittercams) on the backs of seals to discover how they feed, what they eat, and other secret behaviors of this small but growing population of seals.
The use of video cameras on monk seals in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands reshaped scientists understanding of monk seal feeding and behavior. The footage revealed intense competition between seals, uluas and sharks. It also showed monk seals feeding away from coral reefs on sandy banks or even in the blackest depths. Now these cameras may help scientists understand why monk seals are thriving in the main Hawaiian Islands while helping dispel myths and misconceptions that surround this endangered native seal.
“Some individuals have raised concerns that monk seals aren’t native, are eating all the fish, and destroying fragile reef ecosystems, “ says Charles Littnan the lead scientist for NOAA’s monk seal research program. “The intent of this project is to work with the community and other partners to discover the truth about monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands.”
This first of its kind initiative will partner with members of the community in all aspects of the project. The Hō’ike ā Maka project will be selecting two Hawaii high school students to come into the field and actually participate in the research and collaborate with video analysis. As the research teams work on different islands they will work with community members and have video premieres of the data collected from each island’s seals.
“We want to take this opportunity to encourage and help develop the next generation of Hawaii’s research and conservation biologists to help understand, protect and manage Hawaii’s natural resources into the future.” says Monk Seal Foundation President Pat Wardell.
Fieldwork for the Hō’ike ā Maka Project will begin this summer. The Monk Seal Foundation and its partners are currently raising funds for the project. For more information or to support this research initiative, people can visit: http://monksealfoundation.org/Research.aspx