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Endangered Species Law and Policy

Revised Critical Habitat Designation Proposed for Hawaiian Monk Seal

Posted in Critical Habitat

The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed (pdf) revising the current critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi) pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by extending the current designation in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands out to the 500-meter depth contour, including Sand Island at Midway Islands; and by designating six new areas in the main Hawaiian Islands, including Kaula Island, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui nui, and Hawaii.  One article reporting on the proposal states that "[t]he Hawaiian monk seal is facing some of the most severe threats to survival of any federally protected animal."  (The Maui News, June 3, 2011, by Audrey McAvoy.)

The Hawaiian Monk Seal was listed (pdf) as endangered throughout its range under the ESA in 1976.  In 1986, critical habitat for the species was designated at all beach areas, sand splits and inlets, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoon waters, inner reef waters, and ocean waters out to a depth of 18.3 meters around Kure Atoll, Midway Islands (except Sand Island), Pearl and Hermes Reef, Lisiankski Island, Laysan Island, Gardner Pinnacles, French Frigate Shoals, Necker Island, and Nihoa Island.  In 1988, critical habitat was expanded to include Maro Reef and waters around previously designated areas out to the 36.6 meter isobath. 

Comments on the proposed rule must be received no later than August 31, 2011.