A story of how a critical habitat of an endangered species is lost: The Mediterranean monk seal in the Northeastern (NE) Mediterranean

2019-12-31
Protecting breeding caves are of primary importance for the conservation of endangered Mediterranean monk seals (MMS). Despite this fact a large scale marine terminal serving to a cement factory was constructed just 500 meters away from a well-known MMS breeding cave in Yesilovacık bay located in the south coast of Turkey (NE Mediterranean). In this study, effect of the marine terminal on seals was evaluated by camera-trap monitoring which enable to evaluate the cave use frequency and activity pattern through pre, during and post construction periods. Results indicated that the number of seals using the cave before the construction of the terminal was dramatically reduced. Seal activity in the cave significantly decreased during the construction phase. Two whelping events occurred in the cave during the construction phase were ended by disappearance of the weaned pups and carcass of one of these two pups was found in cachectic state in the proximity of the cave. No further pupping activity has been recorded in this breeding cave since then. Considering the position of the cave with respect the marine terminal (<500 meters), the tonnage of the vessels (>30000 GRT), their speed, and given that the ships maneuver in front of the cave, the estimated noise emission (174dB) were higher than the disturbance level (120 dB) given for the pinnipeds. This can be considered as a good example of the negative effect of anthropogenic underwater noise on the pinniped. The cave may perform its function again only by; i) enforcing strict measures, such as limiting the number and tonnage (<1500 DWT GRT) of the ships; ii) declaring a traffic free buffer zone around the cave (10 km); and iii) deploying some additional noise preventive measures, such as bubble curtains, during maneuvers.

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Citation Formats
M. Ok and A. C. Gücü, “A story of how a critical habitat of an endangered species is lost: The Mediterranean monk seal in the Northeastern (NE) Mediterranean,” 2019, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/88705.