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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01304

Current status, biology, threats and conservation priorities of the vulnerable Mediterranean monk seal

Alexandros A. Karamanlidis*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus is one of the most endangered marine mammals on Earth. The species has made a notable recovery during the past 10 yr and is now considered ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Its global population comprises 3 subpopulations, including 2 in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and 1 in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Global estimated abundance is 815 to 997 individuals, including 443 to 599 mature individuals; annual pup production averages 170.5. Over the past decade, increased research efforts have shed new light on various aspects of the species’ biology and life history, including habitat and habitat use, vital rates, communication and genetics. The main threats to the species are (1) terrestrial and marine habitat loss/degradation that has or is resulting in the occupation of unsuitable habitat and limited prey availability, (2) negative interactions with fisheries that result in deliberate killings for damages to catches and/or fishing gear and accidental entanglement, (3) unpredictable threats, including cave collapses and mass-mortality events and (4) pollution. Priority conservation actions for the species include (1) strengthening the legal framework for the protection of the terrestrial and marine habitat of the species, (2) effective protection of the species and its terrestrial/marine habitat, (3) scientific population and habitat monitoring, (4) rescue and rehabilitation of injured, orphaned, and sick pups to increase neonatal survival rates, (5) public awareness and education, (6) monitoring and mitigating negative seal–fishery interactions and (7) expansion of the species’ current geographic range in the Atlantic Ocean.