In 2023, we recognized Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response as a Partner in the Spotlight for expanding and enhancing recovery of Hawaiian monk seals. These seals are one of our most imperiled marine species.
Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response works with Hawaiian monk seals and other marine protected species on the islands of O‘ahu and Moloka‘i. Since partnering with NOAA in 2016, their more than 80 volunteers, interns, and staff have spent countless hours conducting field responses for seals on shore and at sea. They have:
- Responded to stranded seals and newborn pups
- Monitored injured and compromised individuals
- Collected important health and stranding response data
- Developed unique projects to educate public community members
“We feel honored to be able to take an active role in the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal population and to be a key NOAA partner in this endeavor,” expressed HMAR founder and president Jon Gelman.
Outreach and education are key to HMAR’s mission. Their efforts to educate the public in the field is complemented by their work in schools and at local events around the islands. Educational programs in schools include the naming of monk seal pups using protocols developed by Hawaiian educators. This creates a strong sense of kuleana (responsibility) and stewardship of monk seals for students and teachers.
“HMAR has been a valuable partner for many years,” said Sarah Malloy, acting regional administrator for the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office. “Their dedication to the work, and the long hours they’ve spent watching over seals and conducting outreach, have been critical to the significant increase we’ve seen in public awareness and support for Hawaiian monk seal conservation.”
These monitoring and outreach efforts have been especially valuable when seals are born in highly populated areas. In 2017, we all got a big surprise when RH58 (Rocky) gave birth to RJ58 (Kaimana), the first pup ever born in busy Waikīkī. This was the beginning of adaptive management for Waikīkī pupping. Four Waikīkī pups have been born since then, most recently in 2023. HMAR volunteers and staff continue to be the boots on the ground to work alongside NOAA and other entities, creating a safe environment in this high-traffic beach area.
“Our team works incredibly hard 12 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Gelman said. “And it's worth every ounce of effort we put in because we're all so committed to the recovery of this species. Hawaiian monk seals are special biologically and culturally, and it's a happy day any time we’re able to help even one seal.”