In ancient times, the distribution range of the Mediterranean monk seal extended all over the coasts of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and parts of the north-eastern Atlantic coast. Nowadays, the species is classified as Endangered and the current total world population is stated to consist of ~700 animals. The species is extinct in a number of Mediterranean countries, whereas in some of them only a few individuals are thought to survive and in others the status is unknown.
This study analysed recent monk seal sightings over the period from 2000 to 2014 in the Mediterranean Basin. The locations of the sightings cover most of the study area and indicate a spreading of individual seals or a more stable presence in regions where the species was considered extinct.
The authors highlight that the analysis done in this study allowed to identify different regions (the Adriatic-Ionian and the Levantine regions in particular) with high frequencies of sightings, where efforts to monitor the species’ presence should be implemented.
The study points out that efforts for the protection of monk seals, should encompass all areas where monk seals sightings have been recorded, including the protection and conservation of potential suitable habitats in countries where the species apparently no longer exists. The need for appropriate conservation measures, such as the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and sustainable management of fisheries, is stressed to aid natural recolonization.
Bundone et al. (2019) On sightings of (vagrant?) monk seals, Monachus monachus, in the Mediterranean Basin and their importance for the conservation of the species. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3005.