LIFE Madeira Monk Seal - Mediterranean monk seal conservation in Madeira and development of a conservation status surveillance system

LIFE13 NAT/ES/000974

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Contact details:

Contact person: Nuria El Khadir
Tel: 34915100133
Fax: 34914135492
Email: cbd-habitat@cbd-habitat.com

Project description:


The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is a critically endangered species. With less than 600 individuals throughout its distribution range, it is considered one of the most endangered mammals in the world. It is priority species of Community interest listed in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive.

The species has two clearly differentiated populations. The Mediterranean one is mostly distributed in Greek and Turkish territory. The Atlantic population is divided into two isolated sub-populations: one in Africa (Mauritania and Morocco) and the other in Europe (Madeira). From the 1950s, fishing activities caused a sharp decline in the Madeiran sub-population. By 1988 only 6-8 individuals were left.

Conservation efforts since the 1980s, however, have increased the European Atlantic population to an estimated at 30-40 individuals (5-7% of the global population). Nevertheless, the gradual growth in population and distribution of the species in the archipelago of Madeira is creating new tensions with different users of the marine environment, especially fishermen, tour operators and local inhabitants.


The project LIFE Madeira Monk Seal aims to resolve known threats to the monk seal and improve its long-term conservation in the Madiera region. It specifically seeks to address conflict between the habitat needs of the seal and human activities in coastal areas.

The project plans to draft and have formally adopted a new Monk Seal Regional Conservation Plan in the Madeira archipelago. It aims to increase the intervention capacity of Madeira's Natural Park Service, as the competent authority, to tackle threats or risk situations for the species. It will also directly intervene to restore and protect habitats used by the seal for reproduction and rest, including beaches and submerged or partially submerged sea caves.

The project plans to develop a new monitoring protocol and surveillance system for the monk seal. It will take non-invasive methodologies developed for monitoring high-density populations and adapt them for use with the scattered and low-density seal population. It will also establish well-defined indicators and base-line values for the monk seal´s demographic status and the different influences affecting it.

Expected results:

  • An official Monk Seal Regional Conservation Plan in Madeira;
  • Increased capacity of the Natural Park of Madeira to intervene along the coastline to tackle threats or emergency situations for monk seal individuals;
  • Surveillance systems, indicators and baseline values for monitoring of the monk seal and its habitat;
  • Demonstration of the success and potential transferability of non-invasive monitoring methods for such scattered and low density populations;
  • Improved protection and increased availability of high-quality terrestrial habitats used by monk seals;
  • Better implementation of regional legislation for the protection of marine vertebrates;
  • Improved attitudes and engagement towards monk seal conservation;
  • Reduced threats and disturbances from fishermen, tourism operators, tourists and local inhabitants, including reduction of accidents and entanglements in marine debris and abandoned fishing gear; and
  • Contribution to the International Action Plan for the Recovery of the monk seal in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic that is being developed by Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Mauritania in the framework of the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS/UNEP).

  • Results


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Marine
Species - Mammals


island‚  endangered species‚  marine ecosystem‚  monitoring

Target species

 Monachus monachus     

Natura 2000 sites

SCI PTDES0001 Ilhas Desertas



Coordinator Fundación CBD para la conservación de la biodiversidad y su habitat
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description Fundación CBD-H is an environmental NGO with broad experience in nature conservation and the recovery of threatened species.
Partners SRA(Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e Recursos Naturais), Portugal SPNM(Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira), Portugal


Project reference LIFE13 NAT/ES/000974
Duration 01-JUN-2014 to 30-MAY -2018
Total budget 1,143,364.00 €
EU contribution 670,808.00 €
Project location Madeira(Portugal)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version