Headlines – News – Articles
14th September, 2015

Translocation déjà vu


CBD_Habitat_screenIn declaring the Mediterranean monk seal colony at Cap Blanc in Mauritania/western Sahara “closed” [see blog], is Spanish NGO CBD-Habitat edging ever closer to resurrecting a plan that would see seals artificially translocated to other areas? The theory is that this would minimise the risk to the colony posed by mass mortality events, while helping to recolonise areas historically occupied by the species. Unfortunately, as earlier abandoned attempts to translocate or captive breed monk seals proved, the devil is in the detail.

With other signs indicating that a new translocation plan might already be on the drawing board, The Monachus Guardian has requested clarification from CBD-Habitat on no fewer than seven occasions, but has received no reply. Ironically, earlier, discredited and ultimately abandoned attempts to translocate monk seals — with all the attendant risks of seals being wounded or killed during capture and transport — were roundly condemned for their lack of transparency.

The Monachus Guardian’s view — shared by many involved in monk seal conservation — is that translocation should be examined carefully as a potential option in the recovery of the species, but only through wide and open consultation with the wider scientific and conservation community. While previous efforts to translocate or captive breed monk seals have routinely tried to sideline potential critics, others rightly insist that critics are precisely what are required in order to design a project that can highlight and mitigate potential risks. Pursuing controversial and potentially risky projects through the “backdoor” does a disservice to the Mediterranean monk seal and conservation at large.

12th August, 2015

Main Hawaiian Islands Monk Seal Management Plan available for public review

Recent Publications

NOAA Fisheries announces the completion of a Draft Main Hawaiian Islands Monk Seal Management Plan. The draft plan will be available for public review and comment for 30-days, from August 11 through September 9, 2015. To see the draft plan and find out how to comment, please see here.

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2015. DRAFT Main Hawaiian Islands Monk Seal Management Plan. National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Region, Honolulu, HI. [PDF 1.3MB]

2nd August, 2015

Prehistoric and historic distributions of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in the eastern Atlantic

Recent Publications

Non-open access journalsGonzález, L.M. 2015. Prehistoric and historic distributions of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in the eastern Atlantic. Marine Mammal Science 31(3): 1168–1192. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12228.

The present Atlantic range of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), a critically endangered species, comprises two populations in the Desertas Islands and Cape Blanco region. The species is currently the subject of an action plan that encourages the recolonization of its former range. I investigated their causes of its disappearance using species records from paleo-archeological sites and historical sightings/toponyms. I hypothesize that the species’ prehistoric range extended from the continental coasts of North Africa to the Iberian Peninsula, an area larger than its current known range. It is further hypothesized that the historic range included at least 13 colonies, seven more than the present number; and that the original optimal breeding habitat was open beaches, while sea caves were a suboptimal, marginal habitat. It is suggested that hunting and the disappearance of two islands due to a historical tsunami event explain the disappearance of the other populations, leaving only those at the Desertas Islands and Cape Blanco that were sheltered in sea caves. Furthermore, the use of sea caves, in conjunction with effective legal protection in the 20th century, explains the present-day survival of these Atlantic colonies of M. monachus.

2nd August, 2015

Il mistero del Mediterraneo

Il mistero del MediterraneoRecent Publications

Il mistero del Mediterraneo. Trent’anni di incontri con la foca monaca.
Author: Emanuele Coppola
Publisher: Orme Editori
ISBN: 978-8867101405

[in Italian]

27th July, 2015

Tourists “smother” tame Mediterranean monk seal ‘Argiro’ with their caresses — Report

FokiaArgyroTouristesAs long predicted by TMG, tourists swimming with and petting the tame, human-imprinted Mediterranean monk seal named ‘Argiro’ on the Eastern Aegean  island of Samos are at serious risk of bites, scratches and even more serious injury. While their compassion for the seal may be a plus point for the conservation of the species, the numbers flocking to pet and swim with her are exacerbating Argiro’s human imprinting and putting the welfare of both seal and bathers in jeopardy.

Now Greek animal website ZooSos reports that on 20 July, three tourists were bitten while playing with Argiro, necessitating hospital treatment.

Source: http://www.zoosos.gr/article/7567/oi-touristes-pnigoun-me-ta-hadia-tous-ten-arguro-e-phokia-tous-epitethei-poios-tha-phta

28th May, 2015

MOm reports on the progress of Andriana

from MOm’s Facebook page

A month after her release, Andriana continues to enjoy her journeys in the northwestern Aegean. The daily distances she travels are impressive, while diving depth has been steadily increasing and has reached to a depth of 50m. Until now Andriana has completed her first “tour” of the northwestern Aegean Sea (as can be seen on the map), returning just recently to the island of Alonissos in the National Marine Park of Alonissos, Northern Sporades (NMPANS). During this “tour” Andriana managed already to get entangled in a long-line; we would like to thank our friend from Kria Vrisi at the island of Evoia and the members of the Management Body of the NMPANS who helped to free Andriana from this fishing equipment.

Every single one of us can make a difference and help, not only Andriana, but all wildlife live in harmony next to us. It should be noted that the data collected by Andriana’s tag are extremely important in helping us understand how monk seals move and behave in their marine environment and ultimately help us protect them more efficiently.

28th May, 2015

Mediterranean monk seal predation by a white shark

Recent Publications

Pujol, Juan A. 2015. Un antiguo caso de predación de foca monje mediterránea adulta, Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) por tiburón blanco, Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758) en las Islas Baleares, España. Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 109: 71-74. [Published online: http://historia.bio.ucm.es/rsehn/index.php?d=publicaciones&num=40&w=284&ft=1]

In 1906, a white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) was accidental [sic] trapped in Ciutadella (Balearic Islands). In its stomach was found an adult Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), being the first chronological case of predation between both species in the Mediterranean sea.

En 1906 un ejemplar de tiburón blanco (Carcharodon carcharias) fue atrapado accidentalmente en la almadraba de Ciudadela (Islas Baleares). En su estómago fue encontrado un adulto de foca monje mediterránea (Monachus monachus), constituyendo cronológicamente el primer caso de predación entre ambas especies en el Mediterráneo.

21st May, 2015

The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus in Cyprus

by Melina Marcou,
Department of Fisheries and Marine Research,
Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Republic of Cyprus

Monitoring Programme and Surveys

Monk seal surveys had previously been carried out in Cyprus in 1997, 2005-2006 and 2011. These surveys, along with the sighting records, identified a small number (<10) of monk seals still inhabiting the seas around Cyprus. A number of caves were examined along the coastline of Cyprus during the surveys for existence of suitable monk seal habitats. According to the findings, sea caves located in Akamas area and Cape Greco area, both areas part of the Natura 2000 network, are likely to be suitable monk seal habitats. In addition, sea caves in the Limassol and Xylofagou areas were recorded and the presence of the monk seals was confirmed.

In addition to the surveys, the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (DFMR) has been implementing a monitoring programme since 2011, with visits to the previously discovered sea caves, recording the presence / absence of monk seals, as well as any signs of occupation by monk seals. Furthermore, a database is being maintained, recording sightings of the monk seals around the island of Cyprus.

Through the implementation of the monitoring programme, it is noted that the monk seals are often sighted in the wider area of the sea caves. The most important finding through the monitoring programme is the confirmation of monk seal breeding in Cyprus! More specifically, in November 2011, a seal pup, with an estimated age of 1 month, was discovered in one of the sea caves of the island. This is an important finding, since we have now confirmed that this critically endangered species is using the sea caves in Cyprus, not only for resting purposes, but also for breeding. It is extremely important for the survival of this critically endangered species, to protect its habitat.

The 2011 pup…

…estimated to be 1 month old

Major Threats

The major threats to the monk seal in Cyprus are considered to be loss and degradation of habitats, urbanisation of the immediately adjacent areas, and tourism/recreational pressures. Most monk seal habitats are included in the Natura 2000 areas for which preliminary management plans have been prepared. No monk seal by-catch has been noted in Cyprus.

Legal Protection

Monk seals have been protected, among other species, in Cyprus since 1971 by the Fisheries Law (CAP 135) and Regulations made up to 1990 (Reg. No. 273/90). Moreover, monk seals are included in Annex II of the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity (SPA Protocol) of the Barcelona Convention, which Cyprus ratified with the Law No. 20(III)/2001.

Monk seals are a Priority species (Annex II) in the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and for their conservation the designation of Special Areas of Conservation is required. The Habitats Directive has been transposed to the national legislation in 2003 with the Law on the Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife, No. 153(I)/2003. The Natura 2000 network in Cyprus is being set up through this Law.

Apart from the above national, regional and EU legislation, there are a number of other provisions in the fisheries legislation that are indirectly relevant to the protection of monk seals, such as the prohibitions on the use of explosives, fish resource management measures, especially those concerning the limitations on fishing effort, seasonal restrictions on nets setting at water depth less than 5 m, closed seasons for trawling etc.