Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats Standing Committee

Recommendation No. 6 (1986) of the standing committee on the protection of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus Monachus)

(Adopted by the Standing Committee on 4 December 1986


The Standing Committee of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, acting under the terms of Article 14 of the convention,

Having regard to the aims of the convention to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats ;

Recalling that Article 3 provides that each Contracting Party shall take the necessary steps to promote national policies for the conservation of wild flora, wild fauna and natural habitats, with particular attention to endangered and vulnerable species, especially endemic ones, and endangered habitats ;

Considering that the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is in grave danger of extinction as a result of direct killing, accidents in fishing nets and habitat loss, having practically disappeared from the coasts of some Mediterranean states that maintained populations fifty years ago ;

Considering that only urgent and decisive action can assure the survival of the species,

Recommends that the relevant Contracting Parties embark without delay on the following work :

1. establish, within one year, a national programme to protect the Mediterranean monk seal and its habitats, taking account of the priorities set by the 2nd International Conference on the Monk Seal, appended to this recommendation. The following actions should have high priority :

– enforcement of existing protection measures, especially regarding fishing activities,

– creation of a network of information on seal sightings and possible captures or accidental deaths,

– development of information campaigns addressed both to fishermen and the general public,

– creation of centres of survival and rehabilitation for wounded or orphaned animals which might be caught accidentally ;

2. finance adequately existing conservation programmes concerning the monk seal ;

3. establish and publish, within two years, a programme for the protection of marine and coastal habitats. Monk seals must be recognised within these programmes as being of critical importance ;

4. give adequate protection or assistance for protection to areas containing monk seals or suitable for their reintroduction or natural recolonisation, in particular :

– in Portugal : Desertas Islands (Madeira),

– in Spain : Chafarinas Islands

Cabo de Gata – Golfo de Mazarron area

Cabrera Island (Balearic Islands)

Alegranza Island (Lanzarote, Canary Islands)

Columbretes Islands,

– in Italy : Golfo di Orosei

Tavolara (Sardinia),

– in Greece Northern Sporades

Ionian Islands, especially Cephalonia,

– in France : Revellata peninsula (Corsica) ;

5. reinforce or help to reinforce existing protection measures for seal populations and/or their habitat, in particular :

– in France : Scandola Nature Reserve (Corsica),

– in Turkey : Gelidonya burnu (Beydaglan Milli Parki)

(Cape Gelidonya (Beydaglan National Park)

Dilek yammadasi

(Dilek peninsula (Samsundayi National Park)),

– in Mauritania : satellite reserve of cap Blanc ;

6. promote research on the monk seal provided it does not interfere with other protection priorities ;

7. make the necessary efforts to create an international pilot project of captive breeding under controlled scientific conditions. It is desirable that such a project be carried out in only one station in the Mediterranean basin and that it may serve to co-ordinate seal husbandry and eventual reintroductions.

Appendix to Recommendation N° 6 (1986)

Priorities set by the 2nd International Conference on the Monk Seal


1. A network of seal reserves in which there is adequate enforcement of the laws for the protection of the species is still urgently needed.

2. Areas should be set aside to allow the species to breed under undisturbed conditions.

3. Without the protection of breeding and feeding areas, the species will soon become extinct.

4. It must be clearly recognised that no seal, especially the monk seal, threatens the survival of fish stocks, so that fishermen and others should accept seals as part of the normal biomass. The total take of food by monk seals in the Aegean, the area where the species is most highly concentrated, is approximately 750 kg per day, the equivalent of the by-catch of one large fishing vessel. There is however still a great need to find a solution to the localised effect of the seal feeding on inshore fish stocks, and the competition with fishermen through the removal of fish and the damage to fishermen's nets.

5. Public awareness is essential if it is to be recognised that the seal is not in competition with man. Furthermore, it should also be recognised that seals can provide information of considerable medical and scientific value.

6. Public awareness campaigns must enlist the support of fishermen, harbourmasters, scientists, and the concerned public.

7. National legislation for the protection of coastal and marine areas is essential. The local and national governments of all countries bordering the Mediterranean and the north-west coast of Africa and offshore islands must be informed of the critical decline of the monk seal population.

8. The possible importance of the seal as an oceanic indicator must be considered, and international programmes associated with coastal protection and habitat loss (for example IUCN, CIESM, UNEP, ICES, EEC, etc ;) must be encouraged to include the monk seal under their umbrella.

9. Pollution control must also be enhanced if all aquatic species, including the monk seal, are to be offered an adequate medium in which to live.

10. It should be recognised that uncontrolled attempts to bring free-swimming monk seals into captivity might cause the death of both the captured animal and of any wild seals in proximity at the time of capture. Wounded or orphaned animals, accidentally caught, must be brought to centres where they can be properly held in closely controlled conditions, such as Texel, Guelph, Rhodes, La Rochelle, Split.

11. Monk seals scientifically captured under controlled conditions could provide the basis of studies on the biology of the species, including behaviour, pathology, physiology, anatomy and nutritional requirements. They might also allow the initiation of a breeding colony.

12. Captive breeding should be considered as an aspect of the monk seal conservation programme. It must however be based on an agreed proper scientific programme that is to be carried out by one unit and one unit alone. Such a unit must have the prior approval of the League and follow the procedure outlined in D.1 of the plan of action. Recognition should also be given to the fact that there may be anatomical and genetic differences between the east Mediterranean group and the west Mediterranean-North African group.


The most important region for conservation is the Aegean and adjacent waters. As we are now aware of small but stable concentrations of monk seals (for example the Desertas, la Galite, etc.) every effort should be made to ensure that these colonies are not lost. Such concentrations are all but non-existent and representations should be made to the governments concerned advising them of the importance of these colonies and of the urgent need for concerted efforts to protect them.