SAN FRANCISCO, California, July 2, 2008 (ENS) - Three conservation groups filed a formal petition today asking the federal government to protect areas on the main Hawaiian islands as critical habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal under the Endangered Species Act.
As monk seal populations plummet on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the main islands are playing an increasingly important role in the conservation of the species, the groups say.
The petition, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, and Ocean Conservancy, seeks to have beaches and surrounding waters on the main Hawaiian islands designated as critical habitat to better protect this unique monk seal.
Currently, the species has critical habitat designated only on the northwestern islands, a 1,400 mile-long chain of small islands and atolls northwest of the main islands that are protected as the country's only national marine monument.
Still, the monk seals in the northwestern islands are dying of starvation, emaciated and weak, scientists have found. Pups have only about a one-in-five chance of surviving to adulthood. Other threats include drowning in abandoned fishing gear, shark predation, and disease.
"Habitat in the main Hawaiian islands is essential to the survival of the monk seals," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the petition. "Critical habitat protection could be the best chance of recovery for these struggling seals."
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