Monday January 27 2020
May 2, 2013

Mediterranean Monk Seal

Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) belongs to the Phocidae family, conservation status has been set as “critically endangered“. This species can reach up to 2.5 meters. Males and females don’t have a huge height difference. An average adult  male weighs 315 kg and the females can be 300 kg. Scientists think that this kind lives up to 45 years.    Mediterranean Monk Seal live on two different regions on the Earth:

  • Mediterranean (Greece and Turkey have an important role)
  • Coast of Mauritania, Maderia Islands and Morocco

Living Area (Habitat) of Mediterranean Monk Seal

Before 20th century, they have been living, eating and giving birth on sandy beaches. However, because of Mediterranean Monk Seal’s shy temperament, they started to run a way from human-being. This kind seeks high privacy. But the Earth is getting overcrowded and Mediterranean Monk Seal’s living area not only became smaller but also damaged.

That’s why in this century, they have chosen to use caves for giving birth and sleep. They have chosen this lifestyle to stay in safe. These caves are generally unaccessable by human-beings. Mediterranean Monk Seals reach their caves from the underwater tunnels and this makes these caves safe.

However, for the pups of the Mediterranean Monk Seals, these caves are fatal.

What Do Mediterranean Monk Seals Eat? (Diet)

Mediterranean Monk Seals eat fish and mollusca (squit, octopus and such). They hunt on the bottom of the seas. Some scientists claim that because Mediterranean Monk Seals are fast, they choose to hunt in open seas to be able to use this advantage.

They have been seen removing the heavy rocks on the sea bottom for hunting the creatures hidden.

Reproduction of Mediterranean Monk Seals

Reproduction of these mammals is almost a secret because of their escape from humans. Sexual maturity of a female Mediterranean Monk Seal is thought to be 3-4 years. They generally give birth to only one pup. The survival rate of the pups are really low (lower than 50%) in the first two months. Generally, pups die because of the heavy currents, waves and tides. If humans haven’t damaged their habitat, they were going to give birth on open beaches like centuries ago. Thus, their survival rate was going to be much more.

The gestation period is 9-11 months. But there are records of gestation periods for more than one year. The long gestation period and low survival rate has made Mediterranean Monk Seals stated as “critically endangered”. If we add the damage given to their habitat and unconsciousness, we can clearly see that Mediterranean Monk Seals are in big trouble.

Protection of Mediterranean Monk Seals?

Thankfully, there are people who want to help Mediterranean Monk Seals. SAD-AFAG (Sualtı Araştırma Derneği – Akdeniz Foku Araştırma Grubu/The Underwater Research Society – Mediterranean Seal Research Group) is a Turkish organization formed by a couple of university (Middle East Technical University) students who likes scuba diving.

These great guys work for protecting these wonderful and unique creatures and their habitat. They work with fisherman since 1991 and tries to create awareness.

Right now, SAD-AFAG is a non-profit organization. The members have been working on Mediterranean Monk Seals and their environment. They have never worked in fields that they trained at their university.

SAD-AFAG is also supported by WWF, the World Wild Fund Mediterranean. They have a headquarters office in Ankara and project offices in Karaburun, Foca and Bozyazi.

 Louts are Killing the Mediterranean Monk Seals !!

As you can easily guess, despite these great people and organizations, Mediterranean Monk Seals are still critically endangered. Their population is getting lower and lower day-by-day. It is thought that there are only 600 individuals around the world and 100 of them are trying to live on the coasts of Turkey.

There are some uneducated fisherman who kill Mediterranean Monk Seals. They think these seals eat mass of fish and the reason of empty fishnets are Mediterranean Monk Seals. Organizations like SAD-AFAG is trying to reach these fiherman and inform about marine conservation.

Photo Source: IHA

On the other hand, there are some “louts” who kill Mediterranean Monk Seals just for fun! Today (2nd of May, 2013), a Mediterranean Monk Seal has been found dead off the coast of Antalya/Turkey. Locals have named this seal “Duman” (Smoke in Turkish) and it is told that every diver, fisherman and every single sea-lover has been knowing Duman. The murderer hasn’t been found yet. There are 9 bullet holes in Duman’s head (possible dumdum bullets).

Duman is more than 2 meters and weighs 150 kg. Its skeleton will be shown in the Sea Museum of Antalya, Turkey.




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About Seaman


Hi, my name is Murat Demirağ. I have been diving since 1996 and teaching scuba since 2005. I wanted to share my knowledge through

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