The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concerning Conservation Measures for the Eastern Atlantic Populations of the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) was concluded under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and came into effect on 18 October 2007 when all four Range States signed the MOU in Spain. The MOU was open for signature to all the Atlantic Range States. The Action Plan, annexed to the MOU, is an integral part thereof.
This instrument is a significant step towards improving the conservation status and the habitat of the Eastern Atlantic Monk Seal throughout its range in cooperation with the four signatory states.
As a result of the alarming conservation status – no more than 500 seals remain in the Mediterranean and along the Eastern Atlantic coastline - IUCN has classified the species as Critically Endangered. Monk Seal populations play an important role in coastal and marine ecosystems. But natural phenomena and the development of human activities have significantly reduced them. The Eastern Atlantic Populations of the Mediterranean Monk Seal greatly suffer from entanglement and mortality in fishing gears, over fishing, hunting and human persecution, and pollution, as well as from natural factors such as toxic phytoplankton. In addition, destruction of breeding sites and collapsing breeding cave further accelerate habitat loss.
Since 1986, the populations of Mediterranean Monk Seals have been at the centre of the Mediterranean Action Plan of UNEP. The Mediterranean Monk Seal has also been a main focus of CMS conservation measures for marine mammals. The Mediterranean Monk Seal is one of the most threatened marine mammals in the world and is listed on the Appendices of the Convention. Appendix I Listing commits member states to ban seal hunting and capture and to conserve its habitat to counteract factors impeding migration. This includes surveying other threat factors as well as preventing disturbance to the species.
The Government of Spain coordinates the MOU while CMS provides the secretariat.