Headlines – News – Articles
20th August, 2014

New report on monk seals of Gyaros, Greece

1st Annual Conservation Status Report of the Mediterranean Monk Seal Population at the island of Gyaros

Recent Publications

[…] Annual pup productivity

The minimum mean annual number of births (n = 7.75) recorded at the island of Gyaros is one of the highest recorded for the species in the Mediterranean Sea and could be higher if systematic assessments of natality were conducted throughout the breeding season at each site in the years 2004 – 2011. Systematic surveys of annual pup production at Cabo Blanco in the Western Sahara (González et al., 2002), the Northern Sporades, Kimolos & Polyaigos, and at Karpathos & Saria (MOm, 2007) yielded counts of 25.0, 8.4, 7.9, and 3.7, respectively. […]

MOm. 2014. 1st annual conservation status report of the Mediterranean monk seal population at the island of Gyaros. 1-30. [PDF 1.5MB]

18th August, 2014

Tourism could help save Mediterranean monk seals, but if unmanaged it will only accelerate their demise

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara


[…] Unfortunately, the monk seal breeding season happens to coincide in part with the peak of the tourist season, a coincidence likely to result in making the seals even more endangered than they already are, as I had the opportunity of documenting yesterday in an undisclosed location of the Northern Dodecanese, in Greece.

There, sheltered on a small sandy beach at the far end of a large cave carved in the cliff of a small, uninhabited islet, lives today a female monk seal with her small pup. As it happens, the location is also very popular with tourists from nearby islands, who converge there aboard day-trip boats organised by local operators, as well as with their own vessels; and the word has spread that seals can be visited in the cave.

Well-managed, tourism could be a bonus for monk seal conservation because of the high value that visitors attribute to such charismatic animals. This value can be harnessed to the benefit of the local communities, which would then strive to protect the seals or, at a minimum, stop destroying them. However, in the current total absence of management, anyone can imagine the amount of disturbance that this seal pair is subjected to, in a most critical phase of their existence and in a moment in which their quiet and peace should be guaranteed at all costs. […] Full article.

20th July, 2014

New publication confirms coastal diet for Mediterranean monk seal

Recent Publications

Non-open access journalsAlexandros A. Karamanlidis, P. Jeff Curtis, Amy C. Hirons, Marianna Psaradellis, Panagiotis Dendrinos and John B. Hopkins III. 2014. Stable isotopes confirm a coastal diet for critically endangered Mediterranean monk seals. Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10256016.2014.931845.


Understanding the ecology and behaviour of endangered species is essential for developing effective management and conservation strategies. We used stable isotope analysis to investigate the foraging behaviour of critically endangered Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) in Greece. We measured carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (expressed as δ13C and δ15N values, respectively) derived from the hair of deceased adult and juvenile seals and the muscle of their known prey to quantify their diets. We tested the hypothesis that monk seals primarily foraged for prey that occupy coastal habitats in Greece. We compared isotope values from seal hair to their coastal and pelagic prey (after correcting all prey for isotopic discrimination) and used these isotopic data and a stable isotope mixing model to estimate the proportion of coastal and pelagic resources consumed by seals. As predicted, we found that seals had similar δ13C values as many coastal prey species and higher δ13C values than pelagic species; these results, in conjunction with mean dietary estimates (coastal=61 % vs. pelagic=39 %), suggest that seals have a diverse diet comprising prey from multiple trophic levels that primarily occupy the coast. Marine resource managers should consider using the results from this study to inform the future management of coastal habitats in Greece to protect Mediterranean monk seals.

25th June, 2014

First monk seal images from the maternity cave of the Desertas Islands

by Rosa Pires, Parque Natural da Madeira Service

For the second year in a row, Mediterranean monk seal images have been collected from the automatic cameras installed in the maternity cave of the Desertas Islands. Together, these are the first images ever taken of monk seals inside a cave in Madeira.

The cameras were installed when there was no seal activity in the cave, in order to avoid any possible disturbance.

Although the 13,000 images have yet to be properly analysed, a first look confirms once again that this system is actually an excellent tool to monitor the population. The pictures are now of a better quality (light and framing), improved by the experience gained during the first implementation of the system in 2012.

The results obtained during 2012 allowed us to observe events and situations which would otherwise have been missed, including two dead pups and two others alive. The total of 5 births counted in 2012 was the highest number ever recorded in the Desertas Islands — and is another indication that the monitoring of the population has improved significantly using this technique.

The peak activity of monk seals inside of the cave was recorded in October, coinciding with the occurrence of the largest number of births.

The continuation of this work and its expansion into other areas used, or with the potential to be used, by monk seals is undoubtedly an excellent investment in the monitoring of this species and consequently for its conservation.

13th June, 2014

New publication details monk seal stranding case on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey

Recent Publications

Open access journalsErdem Danyer, Işıl Aytemiz, Ali Cemal Gücü, Arda M. Tonay. 2014. Preliminary study on a stranding case of Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) on the Eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Journal of the Black Sea / Mediterranean Environment 20(2): 152-157. [Download]


The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) is one of the critically endangered species in the world and in the northeast Mediterranean Sea there is a continuously breeding population. On 28 February 2014, 3-3.5 months old, male Mediterranean monk seal stranded near Yasilovacık Harbour, Mersin. Gross necropsy was carried out one day later. The seal was emaciated and lungs were pneumonic. This paper summarizes the preliminary findings of the gross necropsy.

Further information: Monk seal breeding cave in Turkey threatened by harbour construction.

12th June, 2014

NOAA releases Final Environmental Impact Statement for Monk Seal Actions

NOAA Announcement

hawaiianmonkseal1_pifscThe Final PEIS for Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Actions was made available for public review from April 11 to May 12, 2014.  The Preferred Alternative identified in the Final PEIS is Alternative 3, Limited Translocation.  The Preferred Alternative does not include any translocation option that involves moving seals born in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and releasing them in the main Hawaiian Islands.  The Final PEIS is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/eis/hawaiianmonkseal.htm.

NOAA Fisheries has issued the Record of Decision for the Final PEIS, which summarizes the alternatives considered, identifies the preferred alternative (Alternative 3, Limited Translocation) and why it was chosen, and identifies required mitigation and monitoring.  NOAA Fisheries plans to implement Alternative 3 and permit and conduct the research and enhancement activities included in this alternative.

The Record of Decision is also available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/eis/hawaiianmonksealeis.htm.

HMS Final PEIS Record of Decision (PDF 255 KB)

1st June, 2014

Mediterranean monk seal reportedly harassed by drunken tourists in Pula, Croatia

Official Pula Facebook page issues strong warning

The early morning appearance of the monk seal aroused the interest of some drunken tourists, according to a report in Vecernji List, which reported that the tourists tried to force the monk seal back into the sea, before attempting to force it back into the sea by grabbing its tail. Their attempts failed, as local authorities were quickly on the scene to stop the actions of the tourists. [Read more at Digital Journal]

14th May, 2014

New genus, Neomonachus, recommended for Caribbean, Hawaiian monk seals

Recent Publications

open_access_orangeDirk-Martin Scheel, Graham Slater, Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, Charles Potter, David Rotstein, Kyriakos Tsangaras, Alex Greenwood and Kristofer M. Helgen. 2014. Biogeography and taxonomy of extinct and endangered monk seals illuminated by ancient DNA and skull morphology, ZooKeys 409 (2014): 1-33. [Downloadable in various formats from Zookeys]


Extinctions and declines of large marine vertebrates have major ecological impacts and are of critical concern in marine environments. The Caribbean monk seal, Monachus tropicalis, last definitively reported in 1952, was one of the few marine mammal species to become extinct in historical times. Despite its importance for understanding the evolutionary biogeography of southern phocids, the relationships of M. tropicalis to the two living species of critically endangered monk seals have not been resolved. In this study we present the first molecular data for M. tropicalis, derived from museum skins. Phylogenetic analysis of cytochrome b sequences indicates that M. tropicalis was more closely related to the Hawaiian rather than the Mediterranean monk seal. Divergence time estimation implicates the formation of the Panamanian Isthmus in the speciation of Caribbean and Hawaiian monk seals. Molecular, morphological and temporal divergence between the Mediterranean and “New World monk seals” (Hawaiian and Caribbean) is profound, equivalent to or greater than between sister genera of phocids. As a result, we classify the Caribbean and Hawaiian monk seals together in a newly erected genus, Neomonachus. The two genera of extant monk seals (Monachus and Neomonachus) represent old evolutionary lineages each represented by a single critically endangered species, both warranting continuing and concerted conservation attention and investment if they are to avoid the fate of their Caribbean relative.