Protection of Hawaiian Monk Seal Pupping and Nursing Habitat from Human Disturbance at Kure Atoll, Hawaii

WHEREAS, beach counts of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal at Kure Atoll have declined by over 80% since the 1960 U.S. Coast Guard occupation of Green Island at Kure Atoll; and

WHEREAS, the precipitous decline in number of seals was reversed by the captive care of weaned female pups and the introduction of yearling female seals under the "Head Start" program of the National Marine Fisheries Service; and

WHEREAS, the most probable cause of the original population decline was a combination of human, dog, and vehicle disturbance of nursing mother seals on the beaches of Kure Atoll's Green Island; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Coast Guard is to be complimented for reducing disturbance of mother seals on beaches by removing all dogs from Kure Atoll, restricting vehicle-use on Green Island beaches, and setting aside an "OFF LIMITS" beach at the north end of Green Island; and

WHEREAS, the complete removal of Coast Guard presence from all beaches of Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals was associated with the rapid increase in monk seals using Tern Island from fewer than 5 animals per day to average beach counts of 85 seals within 6 years after Coast Guard departure from Tern Island; and

WHEREAS, beginning in 1987, a majority of the pups being born at Kure Atoll have mothers whose presence is a result of increased pup survival and translocations resulting from the "Head Start" program of the National Marine Fisheries Service; and

WHEREAS, the continuing disturbance of mother seals with young during the pupping season by Coast Guard personnel is in violation of both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act; and

WHEREAS, existing Coast Guard regulations designed to reduce personnel disturbance of monk seals are not always followed; and

WHEREAS, Coast Guard personnel presence on the primary pupping beach at the west point of Green Island, Kure Atoll, should be banned from February through July if the population of this endangered seal is to continue to increase with the help of the "Head Start" program;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the American Society of Mammalogists urges Admiral Paul A. Yost, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, Washington, D.C. 20593-0001, to issue instructions to the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Loran Station at Kure Atoll to strictly enforce current restrictions regulating the monk seal disturbance and to place the pupping beach at the west point of Green Island off limits to his personnel from February through July.