當加勒比僧海豹在岸上休息、生產、照顧後代的時候，獵人輕鬆就可手到擒來，美國海洋與大氣總署（NOAA）的生物學家表示，人類狂捕濫殺才造成加勒比僧海豹滅亡。世人最後一次確切見到這種海豹，是1952年在牙買家與墨西哥尤卡坦半島之間的小塞拉納島（ Seranilla Bank）。
其他幾種在近代滅絕的海洋哺乳動物包括18到19世紀左右消失的大西洋灰鯨，以及18世紀末期可能因捕鯨業者濫捕而絕種的大海牛（Steller’s sea cow）。NOAA專家表示，加勒比僧海豹也是在同一時期開始遭到大量獵殺。
After a five year review, federal government scientists have determined that the Caribbean monk seal has gone extinct. Also known as the West Indian monk seal, this was the only subtropical seal native to the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico and is the first type of seal to go extinct from human causes.
Once widespread throughout the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and west Atlantic Ocean, these seals were found in the United States from the Florida Keys and along the coast north to the states of Georgia and South Carolina.
Monk seals became easy targets for hunters while resting, birthing, or nursing their pups on the beach. Overhunting by humans led to these seals' demise, according to biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. The last confirmed sighting of the seal was in 1952 in the Caribbean Sea at Seranilla Bank, between Jamaica and the Yucatan Peninsula.
Caribbean monk seals were listed as endangered on March 11, 1967, under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, and relisted under the Endangered Species Act on April 10, 1979. Since then, several efforts have been made to investigate unconfirmed reports of the species. These expeditions only confirmed sightings of other seal types.
Scientists are unsure about exactly when Caribbean monk seals went extinct. Although there have been no confirmed sightings since 1952, the seals lived 20 to 30 years, so experts believe that some adults possibly lived into the 1960s or 1970s.
"Worldwide, populations of the two remaining monk seal species are declining," said Kyle Baker, biologist for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "We hope we've learned from the extinction of Caribbean monk seals, and can provide stronger protection for their Hawaiian and Mediterranean relatives." Hawaiian and Mediterranean monk seals are endangered and at risk of extinction. There are now fewer than 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals and fewer than 500 Mediterranean monk seals.
NOAA's Fisheries Service is responsible for protecting the Hawaiian monk seal. That population is declining at a rate of about four percent per year, and NOAA biologists predict the population could fall below 1,000 animals in the next three to four years, placing the Hawaiian monk seal among the world's most endangered marine species. Hawaiian monk seals face survival challenges such as lack of food sources for young seals, entanglement in marine debris, predation by sharks, and loss of haul-out and pupping beaches due to erosion.
Other species of marine mammals that have gone extinct in modern times include the Atlantic gray whale, which disappeared sometime in the 1700s or 1800s, and stellar sea cow which became extinct in the late 1700s, presumably due to overhunting by whalers. Exploitation of Caribbean monk seals began during the same time period, the NOAA scientists say.