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Protected Resources Division
Seen a Monk Seal?
The Hawaiian monk seal was listed as an endangered species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on November 23, 1976 (41 FR 51612) and remains listed as endangered. In that same year, the Hawaiian monk seal was designated as "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Both the ESA and MMPA have mechanisms to encourage management for population growth and recovery and to prohibit any form of monk seal "take," except for limited exceptions authorized under federal permits.
The MMPA prohibits the "take" of marine mammals. "Take" includes actions such as hunting, harassing, killing, capturing, injuring and disturbing a marine mammal.
The ESA prohibits the "take" of a threatened or endangered species in US territorial waters. Under the ESA, "take" means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct.
- Report a violation:
Call (800) 853-1964 or
Pacific Islands Division Office of Law Enforcement
- Office of Protected Resources laws/policies webpage
Monk Seal viewing guidelinesProtect the Hawaiian monk seal, let sleeping seals lie
If you are fortunate enough to see a seal on the beach or in the water in Hawaii, remember to watch from a distance ... for your safety and their protection.
The seal population in the main Hawaiian Islands is naturally increasing (click here to learn more about the monk seal population status across its range) and we are lucky to have the opportunity to view monk seals, sea turtles and dolphins in the wild. It is not uncommon to share the surf with sea turtles or to share the beach with a monk seal. However, it is a privilege that comes with responsibility. Responsible wildlife viewing helps to ensure your safety and their protection and long-term survival in the wild.
Marine animals such as monk seals, sea turtles and dolphins are part of the identity of the islands and hold a special place in the minds and hearts of the people of Hawaii. While viewing marine animals, you should ensure that your actions do not disturb the animals you are observing. Since an animal's reaction will vary, carefully observe all animals and leave the vicinity if you see possible signs of disturbance.
- It is natural for monk seals to come ashore or haul out on the beach for long periods of time. Please give them the space they need to rest and do not attempt to push them back into the water.
- Roped off areas on the beach are for your safety and their protection - please do not enter.
- If approached by a seal, move away to avoid interaction. If in the ocean, cautiously exit the water.
- Pets, especially dogs, can pose a significant risk to monk seals. Please keep them on a leash when in the presence of monk seals to avoid injury or disease transmission.
- In the ocean, monk seals may exhibit inquisitive behavior. Approaching or attempting to play or swim with them may alter their behavior and their ability to fend for themselves in the wild.
Cautiously move away if you observe the following monk seal behaviors indicating it has been disturbed:
- Female attempting to shield a pup with her body or by her movements
- Vocalization (growling) or rapid movement away from the disturbance
- Sudden awakening from sleep on the beach
Monk Seal and Fishery Interaction Guidelines
Do you encounter seals while fishing or want to know what you should do if you encounter or hook a monk seal while fishing? Please see the documents listed below for more information.
- Monk Seal and Fishery Interaction Guidelines
- How to Keep Monk Seals From Getting Your Bait Fact Sheet