Monachus monachus - Phoque moine - Foca monaca - Monk seal

Mediterranean monk seals are one of the six most endangered mammals in the world. Formerly common across the Mediterranean, they were hunted for their meat, fat and pelts. Competition with fishermen for fish stocks, human disturbances, toxic algae and viruses precipitated their decline. With approximately 1,000 individuals in 1978, the monk seal population has now dropped to 150. The last individuals, within or around the perimeter of the Pelagos Sanctuary, were observed in 1960-1970, in Corsica, Sardinia, Algeria, Tunisia and even in the Cap Sicié, where a cave that still bears the name ‘Boeuf marin’, a reference to the seal’s meat. Monk seals have managed to survive and still live in certain Greek islands (Northern Sporades, Cyclades, Dodecanese) and a pod of around 150 individuals took refuge in Ras Nouadhibou on the border of Morocco and Mauritania (north of the Banc d'Arguin). Adults measure 2.4 m long and can weigh up to 300 kg. They have light grey or beige-brown fur. If females are not disturbed, they can deliver offspring every year. Young monk seals are 1 meter long and have thick black fur with a white marking on the stomach. They feed on fish and cephalopods.

Threats to the species

The impact of tourism activities and urban sprawl reduces the number of monk seals’ habitats, while their existence alongside fishermen, who are seeing a decline in their resources, continues to be an issue, despite the fact that some progress has been made through the cooperation of fishermen with groups that protect the seals, such as the MOm in Greece.

Pour en savoir plus : www.mom.gr 

 

 

 

Ziphius cavirostris - Ziphius ou Baleine à bec de Cuvier - Zifio - Cuvier’s beaked whale, goose-beaked whale
Illustration © M. Würtz. Musée océanographique de Monaco, Fondation Albert Ier

Cuvier’s beaked whales are odontocetes that measure around 6 m long and can on the average weigh from 2 to 3 tons. They live in the high seas, often near underwater canyons. Solitary creatures, they are sometimes seen in small groups. The species is well represented in the Mediterranean, but their withdrawn nature makes them difficult to observe. They feed on cephalopods and bathypelagic fish..

Threats to the species

The main threats to the species are marine explosions and the use of particular sonar signals, which can disrupt the whales’ echolocation systems and lead to strandings. Natural predators (killer whales, sharks) also pose a threat to Cuvier’s beaked whales.

 

 

 

Tursiops truncatus - Grand Dauphin ou Tursiops - Tursiope - Bottlenose dolphin
Illustration © M. Würtz. Musée océanographique de Monaco, Fondation Albert Ier

Common bottlenose dolphins are larger than striped and common dolphins, reaching 3.5 m in length and weighing 300 kg. Common bottlenose dolphins can live for between forty and fifty years. They are often seen in groups, usually of less than a dozen individuals, but occasionally made up of as many as fifty individuals. Within the Sanctuary, their habitats are mainly near coastal areas, particularly by the larger islands (Corsica and Sardinia) and also, although less frequently, along the coast of Provence. They rarely venture beyond the continental shelf, and are therefore submitted to strong pressure from human activities. They feed on fish, shrimp, cuttlefish and squid, often catching prey along the seabed. They are opportunistic and show a strong ability to adapt. Common bottlenose dolphins are seen regularly throughout the year.

Nota : Common bottlenose dolphins were the focus of the Mediterranean Life LINDA program, which was introduced in 2004 in order to ‘ensure that the species and economic activities could exist and flourish side-by-side’. For more information, please go to the website of the Life LINDA program: www.lifelinda.org

Threats to the species

The main threat to common bottlenose dolphins are the overfishing of their prey and the presence of fishing nets. These dolphins can also be the source of conflicts of interest with fishermen, with whom they are in direct competition.

Balaenoptera physalus - Rorqual commun - Balenottera - Fin whale
Illustration © M. Würtz. Musée océanographique de Monaco, Fondation Albert Ier

Fin whales are the only Mysticete species commonly found in the Mediterranean. In terms of both size (up to 22 m long) and weight (up to 70 tons), they are the second largest animal on the planet, just behind blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus). They have long, slender bodies. They can live to the age of eighty. More than a thousand individuals are found in the deep waters (1,000 m below the surface) of the Sanctuary, mainly in the summer, when krill is abundant. Every year, births and small newborns (around 6 m long and weighing 2 tons) can be sighted along the coasts of Provence and Corsica..

Threats to the species

Mainly marine traffic – the species seems to be unable to identify the locations of large vessels and thus cannot avoid collisions.

Globicephala mela - Globicéphale noir - Globicephalo - Long-finned pilot whale
Illustration © M. Würtz. Musée océanographique de Monaco, Fondation Albert Ier

Long-finned pilot whales are the largest of the Delphinidae after killer whales: they can be up to 6 m long and can weigh almost 3 tons. Males live for around sixty years, with some females living to eighty. They are extremely sociable animals, living offshore in groups of several dozen. The very strong links between members of each pod are the cause of striking stranding incidents. Long-finned pilot whales feed almost exclusively on squid, which they usually capture over 500 m below the surface. The population in the northwestern Mediterranean is estimated to be composed of between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals. They are seen on a regular basis, especially in the summer.

Threats to the species

The main threats that the species faces are marine traffic, pollution and nets. Mass strandings also threaten long-finned pilot whale populations..