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14th September, 2015

Translocation déjà vu

COMMENT

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.

1 comment to Translocation déjà vu

  • Luigi Guarrera - Gruppo Foca Monaca

    We would like, as “Gruppo Foca Monaca” (Monk Seal Group Italy), to make some comments about the Spanish NGO CBD-Habitat declaration of the Cap Blanc monk seals colony as a “closed” one, and the possibility, put forth by TMG, of resurrecting plans for seals artificial translocation. Starting by the acknowledgement that the Spanish, all throughout the last years, made a work of priceless value for the knowledge of the colony (bravi!), as we already did in the past we want to stress again, in line with TMG’s view, that we do not see any conditions or reasons justifying again the idea of seals translocation in other places (where? maybe Canary islands?), with all the related risks and dangers.
    To this purpose, we have a question: who can exactly tell how is the dispersion of the seals towards the northern Moroccan coast developing, well above the 80 km that CBD declares to have monitored? Probably a migration is already underway! Do the Spanish did some regular monitoring further north? This is what –in our opinion- actually should be made, before declaring that there are huge empty spaces, without seals, in the north (and south). We have information of seals observations in Dakhla Bay, Herne island, Morocco, a place distant more than 180 nautical miles from Cap Blanc. If the conditions would be acceptable, certainly not in a short period of time, why not thinking possible that a re-colonization of further areas towards north could happen?

    We would suggest CBD to continue the excellent study activities of the colony/seals behavior in the Cap Blanc (there is still a lot to discover about it!), and to think about extending the project to effective monitoring activities in the farer north, leaving the seals live their lives in peace. There are miles and miles of suitable coastal areas along the Western Sahara and seals have plenty of places suitable to welcome them towards north. It might take decades for new colonies to create, but we are pretty sure that if we fight all together for their survival, with other projects and interventions along all the Moroccan coasts (without forgetting the Mediterranean!), seals will finally succeed to return back even to Canary islands (it would be great!) where they were unfortunately killed in large numbers in the past.
    Shall we open a constructive debate?

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