Protecting Mediterranean Monk Seals

The last of their kind

<p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p>                Mediterranean monk seal on the beach </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>
© CBD Habitat

Monk seals are among the most mysterious mammals in Europe. Little is known about the way of life of this species. The seals, which once had a population covering the whole Mediterranean region and neighbouring seas, are now greatly endangered. In 1985 IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, declared the Mediterranean monk seal to be one of the twelve most endangered species worldwide. Working with partners from different countries EuroNatur has been actively involved in the protection of these seals.

What are the threats to the monk seal in Europe?
Habitat destruction, pollution of sea waters and overfishing are challenging the survival of the monk seal. Undisturbed sandy beaches and rocky coastal cliffs and grottos have become rare in their entire area of distribution. Scuba divers, tourists and fishermen are increasingly invading the remotest spots. This means that not only are the valuable quiet places for the seals to rest under threat but the very rearing of their young.

Photo gallery

To open the gallery please click on one of the pictures.

Where is EuroNatur active in the protection of monk seals?
The largest colony of Mediterranean monk seals is not in fact in the Mediterranean but at Cap Blanc, a peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Mauritania. It is estimated that 40% of the total population lives in the colony. This is one of the focal points of EuroNatur's work for the protection of these seals. Alongside this are there is also a further  central area of distribution and that is in Greece. Since the beginning of the 1990s EuroNatur has been working on the Greek island of Alonnisos for the protection of the monk seal colony living off the coast there. After years of  persistent lobbying, in March 2007 we reached an important milestone with the establishment of a functioning management for the National Marine Park of the Northern Sporades. That was the central aim of the project there and EuroNatur then withdrew from that area.

Conservation measures are effective
These measures are proving successful, which results in a growing seal population and an increase of their geographic range. In order to continue to enable this favourable development, EuroNatur and their Greek partner organisation MOm have joined forces in 2017 to campaign for the protection and exploration of the Mediterranean monk seals in Greece, as well as their dispersal into the northeastern waters of the Adriatic.

What actions is EuroNatur undertaking for the protection of the monk seals?

  • Preserving what is still there: together with our local partners, we are committed to preserving the few viable populations of the monk seal and developing measures to protect them.
  • Creating valuable databases: investigations of the populations and of the ecology of the monk seals form an essential foundation for successful measures.
  • Securing food for the seals: setting up protection zones where fishing is prohibited and encouraging sustainable fishing methods both work to improve the food situation for the monk seals.
  • Preserving habitats: establishing protection zones for coast and sea waters ensures the preservation of valuable places of refuge and rest in which the seals are undisturbed and can raise their young in safety.
  • Creating perspectives for monk seal and Man: with educational outreach and measures for regional development we can win the support of the local population for nature conservation projects.

Projects for the protection of monk seals

More ...

Portrait of the monk seal

More ...

How you can help


Mysterious and threatened: the Mediterranean monk seal is among the rarest of mammals in Europe. We want to secure the last surviving population of these endearing sea mammals.


Twice a month the latest information about Europe's nature - free of charge and at first hand.

Learn more about our topics

Brown Bear

Seen as a predator with a sweet tooth, a much loved model for soft toys yet outlawed and hunted down as a blood-thirsty beast: the brown bear.


Lithe and skillful, the lynx is a shy, lone hunter. If it is to survive in Europe and if the population is to be undisturbed enough to increase in number, intensive protection measures will be required.


Mankind's relationship to the wolf is ambivalent – on the one hand the animal is admired as a skilled and untiring hunter but also ill-famed as Isengrim the bloodthirsty and persecuted.

Migratory birds

Always to be where living conditions are best: this is a luxury that only those with wings can afford.

Green Belt

Across 12 500 kilometres (over 7700 miles) the Green Belt stretches along the one-time Iron Curtain forming a corridor of habitats for an exceptional diversity of species.

Rivers in Europe

Where in Germany can you still find the original wild rivers? You'll need a magnifying glass. But in the Balkans such utopias still exist on a large scale, even today.

EuroNatur award

Environmental award since 1992.

Nature photo competition

International nature photography competition "Treasures of Nature in Europe". Join us - it's free!