The monk seal is back in the Mediterranean Sea

L’ultimo avvistamento del raro pinnipede, l’unico presente nel Mediterraneo, sarebbe avvenuto in Campania, nel Golfo di Gaeta.

The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus Hermann), named after the colour of its coat that reminds nuns’ tunics, is a rare, endangered mammal. This animal could once be observed off the Mediterranean coasts, but only 500 individuals now survive in the wild.

mediterranean monk sea
A Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus)

The decline of the Mediterranean monk seal

The species is mainly threatened by habitat loss and human-related activities along the coasts. Pollution, by-catch, and the lack of genetic diversity leading to high mortality rates among cubs have also contributed to its decline. Besides, monk seals’ social and curious nature makes them an easy prey for poachers.

Gulf of Gaeta italy
The latest sighting of a Mediterranean monk seal was reported in the Gulf of Gaeta, central Italy

The latest sighting

A Mediterranean monk seal has been observed by Vincenzo Sibillo on 9 July 2016. The man was on board a small boat 500 metres off the coasts of Cuma, in the Gulf of Gaeta, Italy. He informed Greenreport and the non-profit organisation Gruppo Foca Monaca, which monitors the monk seal’s presence in the Mediterranean Sea. According to Emanuele Coppola, one of the major experts on this animal, “it is probably a Mediterranean monk seal”.

mediterranean sea
The main threats to monk seals are human-related activities, including habitat loss and by-catch

A positive signal

“According to the description provided, the animal could be a young individual, probably under the age of 2,” said the environmental association. The sighting of a monk seal represents a great news and confirms the positive trend of the species, in the hope that admiring a Mediterranean monk seal will be no longer an extraordinary fact.

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