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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Associated Press
In this 2007 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, two biologists move an endangered Hawaiian monk seal pup away from the threat of sharks at French Frigate Shoals in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Federal scientists say their efforts to rescue seals from sharks, fishing nets and other hazards have prevented an even steeper population decline for the critically endangered species.

HONOLULU — Federal officials say cutting Hawaiian monk seals free from fishing nets, moving vulnerable pups away from preying sharks, and other efforts to rescue the animals are significantly helping the endangered species.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show about one-fifth of the roughly 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals in the world are alive today because of interventions to save them, their mother or their grandmother between 1994 and 2009.

Charles Littnan, lead scientist for NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, says the seal population is also about 30 percent larger today than it would have been if authorities didn't act.

Littnan says this is the first time NOAA has studied how interventions to save the lives of individual seals are affecting the overall population.