Headlines – News – Articles
21st May, 2015
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
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.
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.
30th April, 2015
by Rosa Pires, Parque Natural da Madeira Service
Metade in the Desertas Islands in 2001.
Last March the Natural Park of Madeira (SPNM) received information that a dead monk seal had been discovered near Ribeira Brava, a village on the south coast of the island.
SPNM staff investigated and, with the help of some local people, found the body. It turned out to be “Metade” (“Half”), the adult male that was found in 2013 with a deep wound to his neck.
Since then Metade had been observed using the coastline of Madeira to rest, mainly in marinas and open beaches. He seemed old and just looking for good places to rest and we were already expecting that one of these days we would find him dead.
The body was retrieved with the help of locals and the staff of the “Aquailha” aquaculture center. No specific cause of death was evident. The body was frozen in the Whale Museum of Madeira, where there is already another cadaver.
SPNM staff searching for the dead monk seal.
Metade being retrieved from Ribeira Brava harbour.
One of the objectives of the LIFE13 NAT/ES/000974 Madeira Monk Seal project it is to collect the bodies of dead seals to be used in a workshop on monk seal necropsies. Madeira veterinarians will have the chance to be trained to perform seal necropsies and the cause of death of these animals will be established.
28th April, 2015
Orphaned monk seal Andriana was released at Piperi in the Northern Sporades Marine Park yesterday, following a brief overnight stay at the MOm rehabilitation unit in Steni Vala. Andriana had been in care at MOm’s new facility at the Attica Zoological Park since mid-November.
Consultant veterinarian Prof. Anastasia Komnenou gives Andriana a final health check before release, having overseen the application of the satellite tag and flipper identity tag.
Volunteers carry Andriana to the waiting Coast Guard launch at Steni Vala, for the onward journey into the Marine Park.
Andriana testing the waters at Piperi.
Andriana’s release at Piperi.
16th April, 2015
Media Watch, Ynetnews, 15 April 2015
Endangered seal swims to Israel from Lebanon to hunt some fish; photographs reveal that this is the third visit by the same seal since 2010.
Israeli naval lookouts spotted something unusual on Monday off the coast at Rosh HaNikra – a highly endangered Mediterranean monk seal, which has become a rare sight in local waters. [More]
9th April, 2015
“Mediterranean monk seal biologists and managers are jetting across oceans to Hawaii to attend the International Collaboration for the Conservation of Monk Seals. The HMSRP and our international colleagues will be spending the next two weeks sharing science, outreach and management experiences to help both species of monk seal. We will be sharing news, updates and interesting facts over the next 2 weeks.” — NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program
Some — including The Monachus Guardian — have questioned the wisdom of convening a “closed door” workshop of this type at a time of severe funding shortages, urgent conservation challenges at the grassroots level, and lack of stakeholder participation in both Hawaii and the Mediterranean. [See comments on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program Facebook page for a brief overview of the debate — or rather, the debate that should be.]
While the 12-day event in Hawaii is now hastily being described as a “technical workshop” only (— one wonders why, then, it is billed as “International Collaboration for the Conservation of Monk Seals”), it is a fallacy to contend that discussions on such issues as human-seal interactions and translocation will have no direct bearing on practical management choices for the species and its habitats. With many monk seal conservationists not participating in the workshop, both from Hawaii and the Mediterranean, one wonders when the usual “top down” conservation management habits of the past will be seen for what they are: counter-productive. While it may be unrealistic or impractical for every interested party to attend such a workshop, one cannot help but ask why even the most rudimentary details have not been provided to other interested parties and the public at large — such as a workshop agenda and a list of participants.
“The usual top down approaches have failed monk seals everywhere. We need a new paradigm of collaboration and cooperation among all stakeholders, not simply a few singular entities. A true international collaboration and discussion could be tremendously helpful.” — Monk Seal Foundation
“An event where they announce they’ll be ‘sharing science, outreach and management experiences’ but yet aren’t even inviting the NOAA Recovery Program that is responsible for a great deal of outreach and management? smh There are many organizations in Hawaii and Europe (been in touch with a few this weekend) that could have potentially benefited from attending even if it was simply to learn. At a time when Federal Funding isn’t even remotely close to what is needed to save the species, it’s imperative that opportunities not be wasted.” — Pat Wardell
7th April, 2015
The death of a pregnant Mediterranean monk seal has been reported in Beirut near the “Cave of seals” at Raouche Beach. The discovery is thought to have taken place last week, on 31 March 2015. A locally performed necropsy did not reveal any signs of foul play, though it is not yet known how comprehensive the procedure was.
Despite being considered extinct in Lebanon since the 1950s, rare sporadic sightings in more recent years have raised hopes of the monk seal’s return.
Further information is available on Lebanon’s Green Area website.
11th February, 2015
Further examination of the body of female Mediterranean monk seal Adriana, who died on 25 August 2014 in Croatia, has revealed that she was shot at twice, in all probability many years earlier, according to press reports and Jasna Antolović of Croatia’s Mediterranean Monk Seal Group.
Pellets of different diameter were found embedded in her skin around the head and the lower body respectively. The entry points of the pellets were no longer detectable on the skin’s surface. Researchers deduce that two guns were involved, in what are presumed to have been attacks on two separate occasions. The police are to undertake further enquiries, in liaison with the State Prosecutor’s Office. Read more: (in Croatian): Sredozemna medvjedica u tijelu imala 62 zrna sačme!
6th February, 2015
Marine Conservation Institute undertook this report on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Program for the purpose of enhancing the conservation prospects of one of the world’s most endangered pinnipeds. The Hawaiian monk seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi), whose estimated population now hovers between 900 and 1,100 animals, has suffered a 60-year decline despite the efforts of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and others to reverse it. Although some may view the seal’s fate as hopeless, it is not. Despite difficult circumstances, NMFS and its partners have made progress on several fronts to slow the seal’s decline. Encouragingly, NMFS estimates that up to 32 per cent of all seals living in 2012 were alive because of hundreds of interventions taken by the agency over many years to enhance the survival of individual seals at risk.
Nevertheless, the recovery program faces several challenges that must be met if the program is going to meet its current long term goal of having a population of 3,200 seals, with 500 individuals in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) and 2,900 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). With a good strategy, sufficient resources, and effective coordination among its several partners, we think NMFS can accelerate progress toward achieving and maintaining a healthy population of monk seals. But it is not going to be easy.
Chandler, W., E. Douce, K. Shugart-Schmidt, T. Watson, M. Sproat, F. Rosenstiel, K. Yentes, X. Escovar-Fadul, and T. Laubenstein. 2015. Enhancing the future of the Hawaiian monk seal: recommendations for the NOAA recovery program. Marine Conservation Institute. Seattle, WA: 1-80. [PDF 4.3MB]