Photo Credit: CBD Habitat

Protection of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) colony of the Cap Blanc peninsula, Mauritania


Conservation Problem

The project will focus on the two main conservation problems this species face in the area: human disturbances and threats at the breeding caves and secondly, mortalities due to interaction with fisheries.

The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. No more than 500 animals of this species still survive on the whole planet. The population located at Cap Blanc concentrates half of the world monk seal population (250 animals) and is the only one that still keeps a colonial structure and where large aggregations of animals still occur. Its survival as top predator in the ecosystem and its protection through marine and coastal reserves contributes to a healthy marine environment.

Project Activities

In order to reduce the conservation problems described above, the project includes constant surveillance of the reserve "Costa de las focas", a terrestrial-maritime reserve that protects the three breeding caves, where the only monk seal colony still survives. At the same time, in order to reduce deaths due to fisheries interaction, observers on fishing boats will be trained to prevent and react to any potential harmful actions detected. Also, coast guards will be trained on identification, legislation and detection of specimens or remains of seals on fishing boats.

The creation and continuous protection of the reserve "Costa de las focas", provides to the seals breeding caves and vicinities safety and protection from human disturbances and threats. Thanks to it, this monk seal population has increased in size from 100 animals estimated in 1999 to near 250 estimated today. Raising knowledge and building capacity about monk seal protection to key actors like observers on board fishing vessels and coast guards in order to decrease interactions with fisheries and related monk seal mortality.

Project Outcomes

The project seeks to minimize human disturbances around the monk seal breeding caves by fishermen, goose barnacle pickers and tourists. It also aims to eliminate fishing gear placement inside the reserve.

Similarly the project aims to increase capacity building and training to key actors for monk seal protection like observers on board fishing vessels and coast guards will be performed. It is expected that thanks to these actions the number of animals found dead due to mortality caused by fishing activities will be reduced, and that the size of the population keeps its positive recovery trend.

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