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Hawaiian Monk Seals Join the Animal Telemetry Network

May 05, 2021

A new web portal lets you see where Hawaiian monk seals travel.

Monk seal feature image A group of young monk seals awaits release after being outfitted with satellite trackers that will help NOAA scientists understand how young seals use their environment and learn to find food. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

A Wealth of Data

For more than two decades, NOAA has been tracking monk seals throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago as part of their larger effort to study and protect this endangered seal. And now you can see all of those tracks online! We have shared our entire archive of satellite telemetry locations through the Animal Telemetry Network. The public can view maps of seal travels and access data using this web portal. NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program is looking forward to the collaborative research opportunities this opens up.

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3D Map
This 3D map available in the ATN data portal shows the movements of one seal, LL00, that traveled from Midway Atoll to Kure Atoll after being released from rehabilitation care to improve her body condition and chances of survival. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Hawaiian Monk Seals Tracked for Many Purposes

  • Research projects include learning about seal space use, travel distances, energy expenditure, habitat use, and foraging behaviors
  • Monitoring efforts include tracking seal survival and movement patterns after an intervention such as a veterinary surgery or rehabilitation
  • Management concerns include seals that may be translocated to avoid human-seal interactions or moved out of dangerous habitats

Studying how these animals use their environment is a crucial part of NOAA's larger effort to understand the ecology of Hawaiian monk seals, identify and mitigate threats to survival, and work toward the recovery of this endangered species.

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Monk seal release
A seal on Kauai, RF30, is released after a life-saving surgery to remove an ingested fish hook. Her satellite tracker will help NOAA biologists monitor her recovery and perhaps discover areas that are risky for seal-fisheries interactions. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Many Data Sets Available Online

The entire satellite tracking data archive is divided into four different projects (some containing multiple data sets) to make it easier to find information of interest. Here are the summaries and links for each of our data projects.

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Online portal
Screen image of one dataset displayed in the ATN online portal. Each seal (different color) can be selected to see more detailed maps and information. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

These seal tracks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands represent the first (1996–2002) large scale effort tracking Hawaiian monk seals to identify their key feeding habitat and determine the extent of their movements. 

Satellite Telemetry Study of Hawaiian Monk Seal Foraging Ecology: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, 1996–2002

After the initial studies (2007–2019), NOAA scientists tracked seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as part of several research and recovery efforts:  

  • Foraging ecology studies help understand animal movement, feeding behavior, and ecological needs
  • Animals are monitored after release from rehabilitation 
  • Animals are monitored in association with survival-enhancing translocation within the NWHI

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Monk Seal Research and Recovery Instrumentation, 2007–2019

In the main Hawaiian Islands, seals have been tracked for both research and recovery activities (2003–2019):

  • Foraging ecology research
  • Monitoring animals due to health or management concerns for recovery 

Main Hawaiian Island Monk Seal Research and Recovery Instrumentation, 2007–2019

Moving forward, the Animal Telemetry Network online portal will allow us to share seal tracks in near-real time as the satellite data are beamed in! Track displays will be delayed by 2 weeks to protect the immediate locations of these endangered species. We continue to track seals in both the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for a number of purposes including research, monitoring, and management issues. The latest seals tracked were those released at Midway in 2020 after rehabilitation. Keep tuning in to the real time tracking site for future updates.

Real Time Tracking of Hawaiian Monk Seals, 2020–2021

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on May 05, 2021