Safeguarding seals

Senate Bill would make it a felony to kill or harm monk seals

One of the world’s most imperiled marine mammals may gain protection in the near future.

A Hawaiian senator recently introduced legislation that would make it a felony to kill or harm Hawaiian monk seals, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Sen. Gary Hooser introduced Senate Bill 2441, which would increase the penalty for killing the seals from a misdemeanor to a felony. The legislation was enacted in response to the shooting and killing of two male monk seals and one pregnant female seal within the past year.

The species’ population is plummeting by about 4 percent annually and is expected to drop to fewer than 1,000 within the next few years due to factors such as starvation, climate change and habitat change.

Caribbean monk seals, the Hawaiian monk seal’s cousin, was declared extinct in 2008.