Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus): Fishery Interactions in the Archipelago of Madeira

Abstract: Marine mammal and fishery interactions have increased concurrently with human population growth and subsequent increases in demand for fisheries products. As a result, populations of marine mammals and the livelihood of coastal fishermen have both been adversely affected. Mediterranean monk seals (Monachus monachus) are among the most endangered marine mammals in the world that have been impacted by fisheries. The aim of this study was to understand the nature and assess the magnitude of monk seal–fisheries interactions in the Archipelago of Madeira and to propose a set of conservation measures to mitigate them. Information on interactions was collected during questionnaire surveys conducted at the main fishing port of Madeira, where approximately 14% of all the fishermen and 59% of all fishing vessels in the Archipelago were interviewed. Most fishermen (91%) believed that fish stocks were declining in their region, but few (1%) considered the monk seal to be the principal reason for this negative trend. Furthermore, only 30% of the fishermen interviewed had experienced monk seal–fishing gear interactions. These interactions occurred mainly in summer, in the morning, at depths between 0 to 50 m and below 100 m, and affected mainly hand-lines for demersal species. At the same time, no records of entangled monk seals in fishing gear were reported. Compared to other areas in the species’ range, the intensity of potentially negative monk seal–fisheries interactions in the Archipelago of Madeira is lower, and they do not currently constitute a threat to the survival of the species. We believe that this is due to the fact that the use of fishing nets in the region has been banned, and fishers have switched to alternative, less harmful fishing methods. Proposed conservation actions should include promoting environmental awareness, the production of a “Good Fishing Conduct” manual, and the increase in surveillance and enforcement of fishing regulations.

Key Words: Mediterranean monk seal, Madeira, Monachus monachus, conservation, monk seal–fisheries interactions, management, questionnaire survey

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.37.3.2011.298

Page Numbers: 298-304

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