Headlines – News – Articles
4th January, 2017
Noelia Ríos, Matija Drakulic, Iosu Paradinasb, Anastasia Milliou, Ruth Cox. 2017. Occurrence and impact of interactions between small-scale fisheries and predators, with focus on Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus Hermann 1779), around Lipsi Island complex, Aegean Sea, Greece. Fisheries Research 187: 1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2016.10.013
Antagonistic interaction between Mediterranean marine mammals, including the endangered monk seal (Monachus monachus), and small-scale fisheries is a growing problem in the Aegean Sea. Effective management measures are needed to ensure both the survival of the monk seal population, and its coexistence with the small-scale fisheries. In this study, data from 371 fishing journeys by 8 different boats was collected between March and November 2014. Evidence of depredation by monk seals was recorded in 19.1% of fishing journeys, by cetaceans in 5%, and by other predators in 16.5%. Analysis of landings data showed that gear and depth were the variables most likely to influence the occurrence of depredation. There was a significant decrease in the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of four of the nine targeted fish species when depredation by monk seals occurred. The total cost of monk seal depredation was estimated to be 21.33% of the mean annual income of fishermen in the Aegean Sea. We discuss how the implementation of marine protected areas and the use of specific fishing gear could reduce the frequency of interactions, and thus mitigate the loss experienced by the fisheries as well as contribute to the conservation of an endangered species.
8th July, 2016
Tonay, A.M., E. Danyer, A. Dede, B. Öztürk and A.A. Öztürk. 2016. The stomach content of a Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus): finding of Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) remains. Zoology in the Middle East. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09397140.2016.1202947
The stomach contents of an adult Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) found stranded on the Turkish eastern Mediterranean coast near Antalya in May 2013 were analysed. In total, 69 individual food items were counted and nine taxa were identified to species or family level. Of the identified taxa, Sparidae was the most highly represented family of prey fish, and one cephalopod species, Octopus vulgaris, was found. Ariosoma balearicum and Argyrosomus regius were encountered for the first time in the diet of a Monk Seal in the Mediterranean. Several body parts (three heads, six forelimbs, neck bones and fractured upper forelimb bones) of Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) were also identified, which is the first record of this species in the Monk Seal’s diet.
24th November, 2015
Karamanlidis, A.A., S. Gaughran, A. Aguilar, P. Dendrinos, D. Huber, R. Pires, J. Schultz, T. Skrbinšek and G. Amato. 2016. Shaping species conservation strategies using mtDNA analysis: The case of the elusive Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus). Biological Conservation 193: 71–79. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.11.014
Halting biodiversity loss is one of the major conservation challenges of our time and science-based conservation actions are required to safeguard the survival of endangered species. However the establishment of effective conservation strategies may be hampered by inherent difficulties of studying elusive animals. We used analysis of control region sequences to obtain baseline information on the genetic diversity and population structure and history of the elusive and critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal that will help define an effective conservation strategy for the species. We analyzed 165 samples collected throughout the entire extant range of the species and identified 5 haplotypes. Based on levels of genetic diversity (haplotypic diversity: 0.03; variable sites: 0.6%) the Mediterranean monk seal appears to be one of the most genetically depauperate mammals on Earth. We identified three genetically distinct monk seal subpopulations: one in the north Atlantic [Cabo Blanco vs. Aegean Sea (FST = 0.733; P = 0.000); Cabo Blanco vs. Ionian Sea (FST = 0.925; P = 0.000)] and two in the Mediterranean, one in the Ionian and another one in the Aegean Sea (Ionian vs. Aegean Sea FST = 0.577; P = 0.000). Results indicate a recent divergence and short evolutionary history of the extant Mediterranean monk seal subpopulations. Based on the results we recommend continuation of the monitoring efforts for the species and systematic collection of genetic samples and storage in dedicated sample banks. On a management level we argue that, based on genetic evidence, it is justified to manage the Atlantic and Mediterranean monk seal subpopulations as two separate management units. In Greece, the existence of two subpopulations should guide efforts for the establishment of a network of protected areas and identify the monitoring of habitat availability and suitability as an important conservation priority.
21st November, 2015
Karamanlidis, A.A., P. Dendrinos, P.F. de Larrinoa, A.C. Gücü, W.M. Johnson, C.O. Kiraç and R. Pires. 2015. The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus: status, biology, threats, and conservation priorities. Mammal Review 45 (4). doi:10.1111/mam.12053
- The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus is the most endangered seal species. In this review we summarize the status, ecology, and behaviour of the Mediterranean monk seal, and identify the main threats that currently affect the species and the conservation priorities for securing its survival.
- Once abundant throughout the Black Sea and Mediterranean, as well as off the Atlantic coasts of northwestern Africa and Macaronesia, the Mediterranean monk seal has recently suffered dramatic declines, both in abundance and geographical range. It is now estimated that fewer than 700 individuals survive in three or four isolated subpopulations in the eastern and western Mediterranean, the archipelago of Madeira and the Cabo Blanco area in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean.
- Mediterranean monk seals are coastal marine mammals. When resting and pupping on land, individuals generally seek refuge in inaccessible marine caves; this behaviour is, in part, believed to be an adaptation to increased disturbance by humans. Larger aggregations or colonies of the species can now be found only at Cabo Blanco in the Atlantic Ocean and on the island of Gyaros in the eastern Mediterranean.
- The main threats to the survival of the Mediterranean monk seal are habitat deterioration; deliberate killing, mainly by fishermen; and accidental entanglement and drowning in fishing gear. Limited availability of food sources and stochastic and unusual events have occasionally also contributed to Mediterranean monk seal mortality.
- Based on a common consensus among scientists and conservationists, the main conservation priorities for the monk seal are: habitat protection; mitigating negative interactions between seals and fisheries; scientific research and monitoring of local seal populations; education and public awareness campaigns; and rescue and rehabilitation of wounded, sick, and orphaned seals.
12th August, 2015
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
González, 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. Trent’anni di incontri con la foca monaca.
Author: Emanuele Coppola
Publisher: Orme Editori
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]