Headlines – News – Articles
18th October, 2013

Pup trapped in gill net released in the ‘Coast of Seals’ Reserve

by CBD-Habitat Foundation

The ‘Costa de las Focas’ Marine and Coastal Reserve was created in 2001 by CBD-Habitat Foundation with the support of local fishermen and regional authorities, with the objective of protecting the breeding caves of the last Mediterranean monk seal colony in the world, located on the Cabo Blanco peninsula (Mauritania). Since then, every single day, the surveillance team has been present to prevent the setting of fishing gear and deter goose barnacle pickers and other potential threats or disturbance to the breeding caves and vicinity.

Liberacion-del-2013_09_29-03Thanks to these conservation efforts, the monk seal colony now has more than 220 animals, and annual pup production is three times higher. Nevertheless, the colony remains very fragile and the need to maintain the integrity of the reserve is as important as ever. As a clear example of this, on 27 September, a fishing pirogue from the nearby city of Nouadhibou set several gill nets in front of one of the breeding caves inside the reserve. The fishing gear was spotted by our surveillance team but rough sea conditions prevented the marine patrol from recovering them. The day after, a seal was observed for a long period of time surfacing in the same place, seemingly entangled by the nets. Sea conditions were still bad enough to prevent the marine patrol from taking action. Finally, despite rough seas, on the 29th September the reserve patrol was able to go to sea to remove the fishing gear and release the captured seal, a young male pup of 3 months of age that managed to survive at least 24 hours trapped by the net. Fortunately, the pup is perfectly well with not even a wound. Sadly, however, the same fishing gear had also captured a juvenile female seal which drowned while entangled.

This sad fact demonstrates once again the fragility of the monk seal colony facing human threats, mainly interactions with fisheries, and the need to maintain and reinforce the conservation measures for the last surviving monk seal populations of the world.

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