Hawaiian Monk Seal

North America


Neomonachus schauinslandi


  • Habitat Loss
  • Food Limitation
  • Shark Predation
  • Entanglement
  • Male Seal Aggression
  • Fishery Interactions
  • Disease
  • Human-Seal Interactions
  • Intentional Killing

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is a Hawaiian endemic pinniped from the Phocidae family (earless seal or true seal). Its scientific name Neomonachus schauinslandi (formerly Monachus schauinslandi) is a tribute to the German scientist, Hugo Schauinsland, who in 1899 discovered a skull on Laysan Island. Its common name ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua’ means “dog that runs in rough water”.

Along with the Hawaiian hoary bat, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of the only two native mammals in the archipelago. It is also considered as its state mammal. It can grow up to 7 feet in length and 450 pounds in weight, spending two-thirds of its life in warm subtropical waters to forage for food.

The dominant factor for continued population decline is lack of food sources due to scarcity of marine species within the area, climate change, and competition with other apex predators.

Recently weaned seal pups are also at risk of being hurt and eaten by Galapagos Sharks, and those who survive predation are vulnerable to being entangled within gillnets, derelict fishing gear, and marine debris. Single male seals also have a tendency to attack females and pups, for reasons not known to scientists.

The disappearance of low-lying atolls and shoals due to rising sea levels and storm erosion is also a major concern, and this limits the areas where the seal population can rest and raise its young. The Hawaiian Monk Seal also has weak defense against emergent diseases such as distemper virus, toxoplasmosis, and leptospirosis.