THE MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEAL
The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), once abundant throughout the Mediterranean basin, in the Black Sea and along the northwest coast of Africa, has now become rare and endangered according to the 2015 classification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
This marine mammal is part of the pinniped group, which also includes sea lions, elephant seals and walruses.
The monk seal belongs to the Phocidae family (clade Pinnipeds) and includes 18 existing species. The gender “Monachus” includes 3 species, one of which is extinct (Caribbean monk seal, Monachus tropicalis) and two endangered (Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus and Hawaiian monk seal, Monachus schauinslandi).
The world population of Monachus monachus is estimated at about 700-800 individuals (350-450 adults), subdivided into 3-4 sub-populations. It is estimated that 300 to 400 individuals live in Greece, about 300 in Cabo Blanco (Mauritania), about 100 in Turkey, and 40 in the Madeira archipelago. An unknown number of seals may be present on the Mediterranean coasts of Morocco.
The decline in the Monachus monachus population is mainly due to deliberate killing by fishermen; seals come to eat fish in their nets and become competitors to be eliminated. They can also be entangled in the links of static nets venturing into them to feed themselves or to play or in fishing gears. Like other species, the monk seal is also a victim of overfishing, which depletes food resources, of pollution, but also of increasing human activity at its resting and breeding sites, forcing it to flee into caves with underwater entrances.
Mauritania population « Seals coast »
The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), generally associated to the Mediterranean sea, also resides in the east part of the Atlantic ocean, namely in the "Seal Coast Reserve", which protects 6 km of coastline in the Cabo Blanco peninsula (Mauritania). It is currently estimated that this reserve hosts almost half of the global Monk seal population.
Actually, this population of the Cabo Blanco colony is fully growing. Since the creation of the "Seal Coast Reserve" in 2001, the number of individuals has increased from around 100 individuals estimated in 1998 to more than 360 seals! At the same time, the number of babies born each year has almost tripled from 20 to more than 80 births.
Ionian Sea population
Monk seals from the Ionian Sea, which recent studies have outlined as being part of a subpopulation genetically distinct from Aegean seals, might still exist in a quite precarious state and might still qualify as Critically Endangered. Information about its numbers, ecology and threats is scarcer than for Aegean seals, although pressure from fishing and tourist activities is quite high there. Approximately 20 individuals have been so far identified in the Eastern Ionian sea.
This partnership is part of the Mediterranean monk seal conservation program.
The CBD-Habitat non-profit foundation, dedicated to biodiversity conservation through various projects around the world, manages the "Monk Seal Conservation Program" in Mauritania. This is done within the framework of the Action Plan for the Conservation of the Mediterranean Monk Seal in the Eastern Atlantic (https://www.mediterraneanmonkseal.org).
Endorsed by Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mauritania, this Action Plan establishes a framework for international cooperation for coordinated actions to recover Atlantic populations of monk seals and to ensure the continuity of this species, which is one of the most threatened marine mammals in the world.
The mission of the program is to protect and contribute to the recovery of the Mediterranean monk seal population in the Cabo Blanco peninsula of Mauritania and consequently worldwide.
CBD-Habitat is responsible for implementing this program with the Mauritanian NGO Annajah.
This partnership is part of the project “Ionian Sea Marine Mammals”.
Since about 30 years, Tethys Research Institute is active in the internal Ionian Sea and the Gulf of Ambracia. Through the Ionian Dolphin Project, it aims to ensure the long-term viability of marine mammals living in coastal waters of the eastern Ionian Sea. These ones are: the Common bottlenose dolphin, the Short-beaked common dolphin and the Mediterranean monk seal.
Participate actively in the conservation of the Mediterranean monk seal population
Your contribution will primarily serve
to protect, monitor and taking care
of the seals.
The pictures were granted by Dr. Pablo Fernandez De Larrinoa (CBD-Habitat Foundation) and Dr. Joan Gonzalvo (Tethys Research Institute)
Mediterranean monk seal conservation program : https://www.mediterraneanmonkseal.org/?page_id=128&lang=fr
Ionian Dolphin Project_Info (2020)