Scientists are concerned about the role the disease may play in the seals’ recovery.
Under NOAA’s recovery plan, the population must grow from the current 1,100 to a minimum of 2,900 before it can be downlisted to threatened. In a recent article, NOAA scientists stated that “fishery interactions, direct killing, and disease could rapidly undo the current fragile positive trend” on the main islands.
“The greatest need for seals right now is fostering the co-existence of seals and people. That’s the most immediate threat to population growth in the main Hawaiian islands,” Littnan says. Compounding the threat, “toxo and lepto will be there and will probably continue to operate in a background level.”