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Estimating Hawaiian Monk Seal Range-Wide Abundance and Associated Uncertainty

December 06, 2016

Combining disparate data and methods to estimate the range-wide abundance of this species, along with associated uncertainty.

The type and quantity of survey data, and consequently, applicable methods for estimating abundance, vary throughout the range of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal Neomonachus schauinslandi. Here we present a new approach to combine disparate data and methods to estimate the range-wide abundance of this species, along with associated uncertainty. We quantified subpopulation abundance using total enumeration, closed population capture-recapture methods, empirically derived relationships between survey effort and proportion of the population detected, minimum tallies, or standardized land surveys corrected to account for seals in the water. We used a Monte Carlo approximation to generate a distribution of range-wide abundance, by summing randomly drawn values from distributions of site-specific abundance. Data to estimate range-wide abundance were available for 2013, 2014, and 2015; our estimates were 1,291, 1,309, and 1,324 individuals, respectively. Although the point estimates increased over 2 years, the confidence intervals for all estimates overlapped. We recognize that these estimates are subject to some varying degree of negative bias, which precludes drawing unequivocal conclusions regarding current population trends. However, after a prolonged history of population decline in this species, the lack of evidence for further decline during 2013–2015 is encouraging. Additional years of consistent monitoring will enable reliable assessment of the trend in total Hawaiian monk seal abundance.


Baker JD, Harting AL, Johanos TC, Littnan CL. 2016. Estimating Hawaiian monk seal range-wide abundance and associated uncertainty. Endangered Species Research. 31:317-324.  https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00782.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 06/01/2021

Hawaiian Monk Seal