Monk seals are so-named because their uniform brown or greyish coats supposedly resemble a monk’s robes.
These animals were revered by the ancient Greeks, who believed that seeing a monk seal was a good omen and a sign of luck. They featured in the writings of Homer and Aristotle, and depicted on one of the first coins ever produced, around 500 BC.
Commercial exploitation in the middle ages for their fur, oil and meat has led to their mass decline, and they are now regarded as the world’s most endangered marine mammal. This once abundant species has become regionally extinct from many Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy and the majority of its population decline occurred more than three generations ago.
This species is protected throughout its range through many national and European laws. There has been action to protect breeding caves and to restrict fishing gear and relocate the most adverse fishing practices. An action plan for their recovery has been implemented and the population has begun to increase.
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Phocidae
- Population: 250-350
- Trend: increasing
- Size: 2.3-2.8m
- Weight: 240-300kg
This species is found throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas, found in countries such as Portugal, Croatia, Morocco and Turkey.
Habitat and Ecology
This species use marine caves with sea entrances for hauling out, resting and pupping throughout their range. They have been observed to also haul out onto open beaches. They prefer warm coastal waters and spend their days foraging for food in the shallower waters. They eat a variety of fish, cephalopods and macroinvertebrates.