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 :