Back to Categories

Hawaiian Monk Seal - Monachus schauinslandi
Photo by James Watt

Hawaiian monk seals have a slender body, short flippers, and a relatively small, broad, and flat head. Adults are gray or brown just after molting (annually) but their coats fade to yellowish-tan over time. Pups are uniformly black at birth but soon become silvery-gray. Hawaiian monk seals are the second most endangered marine mammal in the world, only behind its close relative the Mediterranean monk seal. They are typically solitary and aggressive, maintaining fairly large distances between each other as well as humans.

Hawaiian Monk Seal
(Monachus schauinslandi)

Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and main Hawaiian Islands

Waters off of coral atolls and rocky islands

Reef-dwelling fish, flatfish, eels, cephalopods, invertebrates, and lobsters.


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
Scientists consider Hawaiian monk seals to be living fossils, as many of their anatomical features have only been slightly modified from the earliest fossil monk seals 14-16 million years ago.

Learn More
- Seal Conservation Society
- United Nations Environment Programme
- ARKive
- Marine Mammal Research Program PIFSC