Monk Seal

Black Sea Seal

Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779)

Pelagius monachus Cuv.: Kovachev, 1925, p. 25

Order Carnivora Bowdich, 1821

Family Phocidae Gray, 1821

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Extinct EX. It is considered extinct after 1997 in the Black Sea [1]. Last observed in Bulgaria: 1995-6; International: IUCN CR; BeC-II; CITES I; BoC-I, II; HD-II, IV.

General distribution. Separate localities from the Eastern Mediterranean to Mauritania. From the Northern and the Western Black Sea it disappeared between the 1950s and the 1970s, and from the Eastern Black Sea in the 1930s (?). Until the 1980s, the major nucleus of the Black Sea population was preserved in Turkey. After 1997, the species most probably completely disappeared also there. It is possible that a small number of seals are still living along the Turkish shore of the Sea of Marmara.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Until the beginning of the 1920s, it was present along the Dobrudzha shore [2,3] and entered the river Danube up to the Ruse region. Its main habitats were Cape Kaliakra (1936 128 seals), Maslen nos and the Strandzha shore. At the end of the 1970s, it was probably still permanent also near Kaliakra and the village of Rezovo [4]. To the north of Burgas after 1980 it was already rare [5]. Last observations were made near Kaliakra and Balchik between 1990 and 1992; there was one corpse washed ashore near Balchik in 1994; it was seen in 1994 between Tyulenovo and Kamen bryag, and also near Shabla [6,7]. A carcass was washed ashore near Durankulak in 1996 [8]. Along the southern shore it was present (and perhaps it bred) in the 1980s until the beginning of the 1990s, near Sozopol, Maslen nos, Zmiyski island, Tsarevo and Rezovo: several observations were made on a couple, a group of 4 individuals, young animals, singular seals on the shore. Last observations made there: Malak Silistar, 1993, and a dead seal on the shore in 1994; St. Ivan island, 1994 in the belted bonito season; the region of Sinemorets, in the spring of 1995 [6].

Habitats. In the past there were abodes with 50-100 animals each (for example, Cape Kaliakra and to the north of it). In the last decades small groups or individuals inhabited empty small bays and rock shores. Caves inhabited until recently are known in the regions of Kaliakra, Maslen nos, the Ropotamo reserve and between Sinemorets and Rezovo [7].

Biology. It gives birth to young mainly at the end of the summer and the beginning of the autumn, in isolated places on the shore or in caves with an entrance, often under the water. Sexual maturity: 4 years. Pregnancy: 11 months. Food: fish [9, 10].

Negative factors. trouble; destruction of the shores; illegal killing; pollution of the sea and the shore with mazut, industrial waters, pesticides, etc.; reduction of the Black Sea fish reserves.

Conservation measures taken. Protected in Bulgaria from the end of the 19th century. Included in the Red Book (1985) as a threatened species. Reintroduction in appropriate sites is the last possibility for restoring of the population, but overbuilding of the shore makes this almost impossible.

References. 1. Cem O. K., 2001; 2. Calinescu R. 1931; 3. Lepsi.J. 1925; 4. Michev T. 1985; 5. Spiridonov G. & Spassov, N. 1987; 6. Avramov S. 1995; 7. Avramov S. 1997; 8. Peshev et al., 2005; 9. Israels l. 1992; 10. Bannikov et al. 1985.

Authors: Nikolai Spassov, Stefan Avramov

Monk Seal (distribution map)

Monk Seal (drawing)