All marine mammals and sea turtles in Hawaiian waters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) enacted by congress in 1972. The MMPA prohibits any “taking” of marine mammals in U.S. waters. The law defines a “take” to mean, “to hunt, harass, capture, or kill any marine mammal or to attempt to do so.”
Additionally, all endangered marine mammals and sea turtles are also protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) enacted by congress in 1973. The ESA makes it illegal to “take” an endangered species. “Take” is defined as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or to attempt to do these things.”
Of all the marine mammals, the Hawaiian monk seal is the most endangered in the pinniped family (seals, sea lions and walrus) in the western hemisphere. Because of its endangered status, Hawaii Marine Mammal Alliance focuses significant resources on activities that are tied to the preservation, recovery and stewardship of the Hawaiian monk seal species.
Hawaii makes up less than 0.2% of U.S. land, but over 25% of species found on the nation’s endangered species list are endemic to Hawaii, earning it the rather unflattering title of “the endangered species capital of the world.”
Extinctions are currently occurring at a rate that is unprecedented in human history. Each plant, animal, and their physical environment is part of an ecosystem and part of a much more complex web of life. Because of this, the extinction of a single species can cause a series of negative events to occur that affect many other species.
Importantly, some endangered species serve as “sentinel” species to indicate larger ecological problems that could affect the functioning of the ecosystem and likely humans as well.
Species diversity is part of the natural legacy we leave for future generations and those that come after us deserve the opportunity to enjoy the same natural world we experience.
People cause most of the problems in the current health of our environment. However, people can also positively affect changes in our ecosystems and help endangered species recover by learning about the issues and changing behaviors.
Get involved and help us in this important work to save Hawaii’s endangered marine mammals.
“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” – Charles Darwin (Naturalist, 1809-1882)