Monday, June 09, 2008

Caribbean monk seal becomes extinct

I remember some years ago, when I expressed concern to someone about humans damaging the ocean, they were confident that the ocean was too big for humans to affect. Microbes are so tiny we can't see them with the naked eye, but they can kill us. And they don't use technology. To say that humans can't affect the world shows a lack of knowledge.;_ylt=AufJa0ljKZbA5pv4nxIou9JvieAA

By JAYMES SONG, Associated Press Writer Sat Jun 7, 7:13 AM ET
The last confirmed sighting of a Caribbean monk seal was in 1952 between Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service confirmed Friday that the species is extinct.
The federal agency says there are fewer than 1,200 Hawaiian and 500 Mediterranean monk seals remaining, and their populations are declining.
The Hawaiian monk seal population, protected by NOAA, is declining at a rate of about 4 percent annually, according to NOAA. The agency predicts the population could fall below 1,000 in the next three to four years, placing the mammal among the world's most endangered marine species.

"When populations get very small, they become very unstable," Baker said. "They become more vulnerable to threats like disease and predation by sharks."
Monk seals are particularly sensitive to human disturbance. And the sea creatures have been losing their food supply and beaches, officials say.

"Once Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean were teeming with fish, but these are areas under severe fishing pressure," Cornish said. "They'll eat almost anything — shellfish or finned fish — but their food supply is waning and they're in competition with man."

The Caribbean monk seal, first discovered during Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1494, once had a population of more than 250,000. But they became easy game for hunters because they often rested, gave birth or nursed their pups on beaches.

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