By: Kayla Yamamoto
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries' lead researchers on Saturday gathered to discuss the new "NOAA Species in the Spotlight" action plan and its implications for the wild Hawaiian monk seal population.
Part of the plan includes the monk seal vaccination program, which implements routine vaccinations of wild monk seals against morbillivirus. There is currently no disease outbreak, but ongoing research recognizes preventative vaccination as the best way to protect the critically endangered monk seal population.
Studies have shown that monk seals are at increased risk to morbillivirus because they genetically lack the antibodies to fight the disease—while other risk factors include poor genetic diversity, increased exposure risks and likelihood of virus spread.
NOAA Fisheries' vaccination program is the only wild marine mammal vaccination program in the world. Its current local efforts aim to support monk seal recovery and conservation on Oahu and is expected to continue into October. These initial steps play a part in a broader vaccination effort for future plans to protect endangered monk seals from extinction.