(CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the critical habitat of the Hawaiian monk seal may need to be expanded to include key beach areas and sand spits, including all beach crest vegetation to its deepest extent inland, lagoons and ocean waters out to a depth of 200 meters around the main Hawaiian Islands.
In addition, the Service is considering expansion of designated critical habitat in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to include Sand Island at Midway, as well as ocean waters out to a depth of 500 meters.
The Service’s decision comes at the close of its 12 month review of a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity to expand critical habitat to areas not included in previous designations in 1983 and 1986. The seal, whose Hawaiian name -ilio holo i ka uaua- means “the dog that goes in rough water”, was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1976. The Act defines critical habitat as those “…specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed …on which are found those physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and which may require special management considerations or protection.” The Service will begin collecting public comment and issue a proposed regulation which will specifically identify the habitat to be included in the revised designation.