Headlines – News – Articles
16th April, 2015

Rare seal makes unexpected third visit to Israel

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

The conservation workshop that wasn’t

COMMENT

“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

Pregnant monk seal found dead in Lebanon

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

Croatian monk seal Adriana may have been shot twice during her lifetime

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

Enhancing the future of the Hawaiian monk seal: recommendations for the NOAA recovery program

Recent Publications

Executive Summary

Publication coverMarine 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]

18th December, 2014

Seal breeding season in the Desertas Islands, Madeira

Rosa Pires, Parque Natural da Madeira
Two females and one pup interacting at the entrance of the Bufador cave.

Two females and one pup interacting at the entrance of the Bufador cave.

As a result of the campaign to monitor the monk seal breeding season in Madeira’s Desertas islands, we could confirm already the birth of two pups, a female and a male. These two, born in September/October, were monitored over 2 weeks at the entrance of Bufador cave, where a concealed lookout post was established. From here it was possible to identify the group of seals using the cave and observe their behaviour without disturbing them or influencing their natural behaviour.

With an estimated age of 1 month, the pups used to come out of the cave very frequently, but always staying near the entrance and being followed by their mothers “Tria” and “Manchada”, or by the other three females identified in the area. In total ten different seals were identified using this cave – two pups, five females, one adult male and two juveniles. On one day it was possible to observe nine of these seals.

Three females and one male at the entrance of the Bufador cave.

Three females and one male at the entrance of the Bufador cave.

A dead seal was also found at the entrance of Bufador cave – one of the juveniles. The body was already in a state of advanced decomposition, and the cause of death could not be established. However, the presence of this dead seal resulted in interesting observations of the behaviour of one of the pups. Several times we were almost on the point of entering the water to save the pup, which had invented a “nice” game in “playing dead” by being completely inactive for long moments. In fact, when we first detected the dead juvenile, this pup was following the body, which was moving with the sea current, trying to interact with her.

Additionally a pup and a female were detected in another cave, Vermelhas, suggesting a third birth. However, sea conditions did not allow us to confirm this information.

Mother with pup from the 2014 breeding season at the Desertas.

Mother with pup from the 2014 breeding season at the Desertas.

To date, four births have been detected during 2014, including two occurring before the typical breeding season, and two deaths – the juvenile mentioned above and an adult male found in Madeira.

As part of  the new EU LIFE Project [see New EU LIFE project for Madeira’s monk seals], several surveillance cameras were placed in the most important caves around the Desertas. It is hoped that these will be an important tool in monitoring the monk seal breeding season more effectively, achieving a more accurate number of births and deaths, identifying reproducing females and gaining a better understanding of the seals’ behaviour in the caves.

12th December, 2014

New EU LIFE project for Madeira’s monk seals

LIFE Madeira Monk Seal – Mediterranean monk seal conservation in Madeira and development of a conservation status surveillance system
Duration: 01-JUN-2014 to 30-MAY-2018

LIFE13_NAT_ES_000974_MAPThe project LIFE Madeira Monk Seal aims to resolve known threats to the monk seal and improve its long-term conservation in the Madiera region. It specifically seeks to address conflict between the habitat needs of the seal and human activities in coastal areas.

The project plans to draft and have formally adopted a new Monk Seal Regional Conservation Plan in the Madeira archipelago. It aims to increase the intervention capacity of Madeira’s Natural Park Service, as the competent authority, to tackle threats or risk situations for the species. It will also directly intervene to restore and protect habitats used by the seal for reproduction and rest, including beaches and submerged or partially submerged sea caves.

The project plans to develop a new monitoring protocol and surveillance system for the monk seal. It will take non-invasive methodologies developed for monitoring high-density populations and adapt them for use with the scattered and low-density seal population. It will also establish well-defined indicators and base-line values for the monk seal´s demographic status and the different influences affecting it.

Expected results:

  • An official Monk Seal Regional Conservation Plan in Madeira;
  • Increased capacity of the Natural Park of Madeira to intervene along the coastline to tackle threats or emergency situations for monk seal individuals;
  • Surveillance systems, indicators and baseline values for monitoring of the monk seal and its habitat;
  • Demonstration of the success and potential transferability of non-invasive monitoring methods for such scattered and low density populations;
  • Improved protection and increased availability of high-quality terrestrial habitats used by monk seals;
  • Better implementation of regional legislation for the protection of marine vertebrates;
  • Improved attitudes and engagement towards monk seal conservation;
  • Reduced threats and disturbances from fishermen, tourism operators, tourists and local inhabitants, including reduction of accidents and entanglements in marine debris and abandoned fishing gear; and
  • Contribution to the International Action Plan for the Recovery of the monk seal in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic that is being developed by Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Mauritania in the framework of the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS/UNEP).

Further information

7th December, 2014

IUCN – Best breeding season yet for Mediterranean Monk Seal colony

This year has seen the best monk seal breeding season since 1997 at Cabo Blanco, Mauritania. The colony stands now at around 250 individuals, marking an ongoing recovery from the mass die-off in 1997, which saw the 300 strong population plummet by two thirds.

Mercedes Muñoz Cañas, Project Technician with CBD-Habitat, explains more about the season’s births and project objectives on the IUCN website:

“So far the project team have counted 67 seal births at the colony and the 2014 breeding season has not yet closed! According to Mercedes this is a new record for the “Costa de las focas“ – a sanctuary that constitutes the biggest hope for the recovery of this Critically Endangered species […]”  — Read More at IUCN – Best breeding season yet for Mediterranean Monk Seal colony.