Monk Seals (Monachus Tropicalis, Monachus Monachus, Monachus Schauinslandi) Overview
There are three species of monk seals on Earth – the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Hawaiian monk seal, also known as monachus schauinslandi. It is considered endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, meaning that this monk seal species exists nowhere else in the world.
The Hawaiian monk seal is protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Currently, Hawaii’s monk seal population is estimated to be around 1,500. Because it is an endangered species, it is illegal to harass, capture or kill monk seals in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian monk seal breeds mainly in the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which are located to the northeast of the island of Kauai, the northernmost of the seven populated Main Hawaiian Islands. Sometimes, monk seals can be seen resting on beaches of the Main Hawaiian Islands, particularly on Kauai and Oahu. However, monk seals don’t stay there very long as they prefer to live in solitude.
Adult monk seals are about seven feet (2.13 m) in length and weigh about 400 to 500 pounds (181 to 226 kg). Females are often times larger than males. They feed on octopuses, eels, lobsters and reef fish. Hawaiian monk seals can dive up to 600 feet (182 m) deep and can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes.