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Abstract: Knowledge on Mediterranean monk seal distribution throughout the central-eastern Mediterranean Moroccan coasts is not abundant and has not been consistently assessed throughout time. Results of a questionnaire survey directed at 205 artisanal fishers operating out of 18 landing sites of central-eastern Morocco, and extending over 210 km of coast, are hereby reported. The information on reported monk seal sightings amounts to 141 observations reported for the period 1971 to 2005, with the highest number of reported sightings for the year 2004 amounting to 32. More than 58% of the study area is characterized by rocky cliffs of alternating height, and monk seal sighting frequency was mostly reported for four subareas. However, only two of these, Cap Trois Fourches and Ras Kebdana, seem to be utilised in recent times and seem to be areas where immediate conservation actions should be enacted in order to safeguard remaining seal nuclei. The remoteness of these sites and the presence of the nearby nature reserve in the Chafarinas Islands may contribute to the protection of a nucleus of monk seals, which is likely to benefit from the proximity to the nearby Algerian border where monk seals could survive. Immediate conservation actions should be enacted in the identified subareas, and a regional strategy, including the nearby Algerian areas as well as the western Moroccan area of the Al Hoceima National Park, should be implemented so as to avoid further population fragmentation in this area of the western Mediterranean.
Key Words: Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, sightings, habitat suitability, fisheries, western Mediterranean, Morocco
Document Type: Research article
Page Numbers: 248-255