Push to Make Hawaiian Monk Seal State Mammal

HONOLULU (KHNL)-- There is a measure moving thru the State Capitol to elevate an endangered Hawaii species to a much more prominent level. And many are giving this effort their seal of approval!

Humpback whales make a big splash in our waters every winter. Even though they are a big draw, many visitors and locals don't even know they are our state marine mammals.

But move over humpback whales. An effort is underway to also make the Hawaiian monk seal a state marine mammal as well. And these guys could use the help. "They're one of the most endangered marine mammals in the US, there are estimated less than 1200 remain at this time." says marine mammal specialist, Leah Kissel.

Many have never seen these seals, which are native to Hawaii, lounging on our sands and beaches. And so, many may not know much about them.

The Hawaiian monk seal gets their name because they are solitary creatures, living by themselves, kind of like monks of old. Plus they have a round head surrounded by short hair, again like those monks.

The seals can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds. And are the only seals found in the tropics. And this time of year they are also shedding their fur.

While most don't know a lot about these endangered animals, some like the idea they could soon get a higher profile with the state.

"I think it would help a lot, help preserve them." says one seal watcher.

"It also might help people to recognize them and fight for them a little more." adds Kissel.

While the monk seal population is growing around the main Hawaiian Islands, it is actually decreasing in the northwest Hawaiian Islands.