Hawaiian Monk Seal on Kauai (Photo by Teresa Tico)
Hawaiian Monk Seal on Kauai (Photo by Teresa Tico)

HONOLULU Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr., as acting governor, today signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 2441, making it a felony to harm a Hawaiian monk seal, which is on the federal endangered list.

“Despite the protections provided by the federal Endangered Species Act, these animals continue to be at risk,” said Lt. Governor Aiona. “Hawai‘i is home to more than 300 endangered species, and all the people of Hawai‘i have an enormous responsibility to help protect our unique wildlife.”

This bill, which becomes Act 165, makes it a class C felony to intentionally or knowingly harass, harm or kill, among other things, an endangered or threatened species. The new law, which takes effect immediately, also imposes a fine of up to $50,000 for those who commit theses acts against a monk seal.

There are an estimated 1,100 monk seals in the Hawaiian Islands. With the population declining at a rate of 4 percent annually, biologists predict their numbers will dip below 1,000 in the next three to four years, making the Hawaiian monk seal one of the world’s rarest species.

In addition to low birth rates, intentional killings by humans have threatened the long-term survival of endangered Hawaiian monk seals. In 2009, a monk seal was intentionally shot and killed in Kaua‘i. The individual received a 90-day prison term and a $25 fine.

Numerous environmental groups testified in support of this measure, including the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaiian Humane Society, Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team, Conservation Council of Hawai‘i, Save our Seals, Animal Rights Hawai‘i, Audubon Society, KAHEA-Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, Ocean Law and Policy Institute, Earthjustice, and Maui Tomorrow.

Eighty-five pieces of testimony from individuals were submitted in support of SB 2441, which had no opposition.

“This level of public concern and commitment is commendable,” said Lt. Governor Aiona.  “Going forward, we will need everyone’s help in ensuring Hawai‘i’s monk seals are protected and allowed to propagate.”

For more information on monk seal protection, visit the Marine Conservation Biology Institute website at http://www.mcbio.org

Submitted by Travis Taylor

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