During the monitoring of Mediterranean shag in the Mljet National Park last weekend, biologist Luka Jurinović and park ranger of Mljet National Park Davor Stražičić spotted and photographed the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), one of the most endangered mammals in the world. This is the first confirmed case of its appearance in this area since the early 1980s.
It belongs to the family of seals, feeding on fish and mollusks that it catches while diving. It can grow to a length of over 2.5 m and weigh up to 300 kg. It used to be widespread in the Adriatic, but today it is considered regionally extinct. Intensive economic fishing has contributed to this, but also the growth of nautical tourism in recent decades.
Areas with a high degree of nature protection, such as the Mljet NP water area, have proven to be places where various mechanisms can improve the condition of an endangered species or individual ecosystem. A prerequisite for the residence and survival of such a mammal is a sufficiently rich fish stock and non-disturbance by humans.
In the Mljet National Park, commercial fishing is prohibited within a zone of 500 m from the coast, and there are no-take zones and zones in which only low-intensity fishing is allowed. The establishment of the so-called “Buffer” zone and outside the waters of the park, which would further reduce the pressure of commercial fishing along the border of the park.
In order to minimize the impact of boaters on habitats, anchoring is allowed only in the wider area of the bays Pomena and Polače. This saved the most sensitive parts of the coast and the sea from the pressure of visitors, such as the southern shores of the Mljet National Park, cliffs and semi-submerged caves. Mediterranean monk seal give birth to their young in the peace of sea caves, in the period from May to November.
We hope that the observed individual is not alone, and that its “visit” to the oldest marine protected area in the Mediterranean, the Mljet National Park, will turn it into a place of permanent residence of this species.
We will closely monitor her movements, and if you see her, please let us know the time and place where you saw her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not approach her and unnecessarily disturb her. The following link provides more detailed instructions in case of finding an individual: