Please select your home edition
Edition
GJW Direct - Yacht 2019 - Leaderboard

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals impacted by selfies

by NOAA Fisheries 2 Nov 15:10 UTC
An photo from the study © Courtesy of Instagram

Study shows selfie culture impacts how people behave when posting images of an endangered species on social media.

"There's a seal on the beach! Let's go get a 'sealfie'!" That must have been what nearly 18 percent of people on Instagram thought before approaching an endangered species. In a recent study, NOAA scientists used social media to monitor human activities around endangered Hawaiian monk seals. They discovered that human disturbance is more common than they thought.

Scientists Mark Sullivan, Dr. Stacie Robinson, and Dr. Charles Littnan tracked the hashtag #monkseal on Instagram. They were evaluating biological and geographical information, behavioral concerns, human disturbance, and public perceptions. Traditionally, people report non-emergency monk seal sightings to . The team compared their findings on social media with the traditional reports—and exposed an ugly truth. Nearly 18 percent of all #monkseal posts suggested a human disturbed the seal. Less than one percent of traditional seal sighting reports suggested the same.

When Sullivan created his personal Instagram account in 2012, the first hashtag he searched for was #monkseal. "I could not believe how many people were posting pictures of themselves so close to monk seals." The state of Hawaii and the federal government have regulations that protect Hawaiian monk seals. NOAA recommends that people remain at least 50 feet from endangered Hawaiian monk seals, but people often ignore these guidelines.

"For seal research and conservation activities, NOAA scientists obtain permits that allow them to disturb animals by accident, but I always duck and tip-toe around them. I wouldn't be doing my job right if I didn't work hard to avoid scaring them into the water," says Sullivan.

Many monk seals in Hawaii are used to crowded beaches and hordes of fans surrounding them, but habituation to human presence can harm seals. This study helps us understand what really happens on the beaches. It also shows that we may need to use social media more often to promote our guidelines and outreach.

Social media platforms can be an effective tool for wildlife research and conservation programs. When users post pictures and videos of animals, scientists can access these real-time data. They can monitor them for information about animal presence, behavior, and threats to survival. Many conservation programs may benefit from similar work using social media to supplement their research and conservation activities.

Related Articles

Composition patterns of fish communities in Hawaii
Do the shallow reef fish communities extend to mesophotic depths? Relatively little is known about the underwater world below typical scuba diving depths. This includes mesophotic depths,100 to 500 feet beneath the surface, the furthest that sunlight can penetrate the ocean. Posted on 17 Nov
2019 Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals
Aerial surveys for whales offer a vastly different view compared to boat-based surveys Aerial surveys for whales offer a vastly different view compared to boat-based surveys. The aerial view allows us to see both left and right sides of a whale's body and sometimes even parts of the body below the water's surface. Posted on 9 Nov
What happens when a right whale dies
The right whale known as "Snake Eyes" likely died from entanglement in Canadian fishing gear When a right whale dies and we find it in U.S. waters, we work with stranding network partners to do a necropsy so that we can find out more about the whale and what caused its death. Posted on 8 Nov
Genetics reveal Pacific subspecies of Fin Whale
New findings highlight diversity of marine mammals New genetic research has identified fin whales in the northern Pacific Ocean as a separate subspecies, reflecting a revolution in marine mammal taxonomy Posted on 31 Oct
Tide to table: The rise of ocean farmers
Aquaculture, also known as farming in water, is fastest growing food production system in the world There is a growing interest in understanding where our food is coming from and in supporting local farmers. There has also been an increased focus on local fare on many menus at eateries coast to coast. Posted on 20 Oct
Corals thriving 3 years after Hurricane Matthew
Monitoring shows 90 percent survival rate for restored corals in Puerto Rico Hurricane Matthew swept a destructive path through the south Atlantic and Carribean. Immediately, staff from the NOAA Restoration Center set to work responding to a damaged coral reef off the coast of Puerto Rico. Posted on 18 Oct
New online course for spotting entangled whales
Responding to whale entanglements can be dangerous Highly-trained responders depend on boating community to be "eyes and ears" on the water. The foundation of responding to entangled whales is the on-water community. Posted on 11 Oct
Looking back at the Blob - Chapter 2
The Blob, Chapter 2: Marine Heat Wave "Off the Charts" Temperatures of up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal disrupted the marine ecosystem in both expected and surprising ways. Posted on 10 Oct
Nine turtles satellite tagged in Cape Cod Bay
Researchers attached tags to nine leatherbacks Researchers from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and colleagues successfully attached satellite tags to nine leatherback turtles in Cape Cod Bay this summer. Posted on 3 Oct
Looking back at The Blob
Temperatures of up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal disrupted the marine ecosystem When he saw the sampling nets hauled aboard a NOAA research ship off the coast of Oregon in the summer of 2015, Ric Brodeur knew right away something very strange was happening. Posted on 3 Oct
GJW Direct - Yacht 2019 - FooterGrapefruit Graphics 2019 - FooterMarine Resources 2019 - Footer