One of the largest Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) populations that still survive in the world is located in the area of Cabo Blanco. The area comprises the coast of the Cabo Blanco peninsula and Guerguerat region, between both Mauritania and Morocco, from Cabo Barbas to Cabo Blanco, as well as the surrounding waters up to 25 nm offshore. The three caves currently used by the seals for breeding and hauling out are located in 1 km of coast of the Cabo Blanco peninsula, inside a marine and coastal participative reserve named “Costa de las Focas”. Marine area is also currently used by monk seals for other activities such as foraging. The area proposed contains several Special Areas of Conservation for monk seals (SACMS) designated under the Action Plan for the Recovery of the Mediterranean monk seal in the Eastern Atlantic (CMS/UNEP).
Description of Qualifying Criteria
Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability
The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is classified as an Endangered Species buy the IUCN Red List. The proposed area contains some of the most important habitat for its survival and future recovery, since it contains nearly half the global population of the species, as well as the entirety of the foraging and breeding habitat of the local occurring population.
Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance
Sub-criterion Bii: Aggregations
The area proposed supports the whole known foraging and breeding habitat of monk seal population inhabiting in this region. More than 350 estimated monk seals are located in area after the most recent estimates for 2018 (CBD-Habitat, 2018), representing one of the single largest aggregation of the species. In particular the Cabo Blanco colony uses the three most suitable caves for their reproduction, further aggregating these animals into dense areas.
Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities
Sub-criterion Ci: Reproductive Areas
Cliffy areas hold marine caves of different suitability to be used by seals. The Cabo Blanco monk seal colony use the three most suitable caves of the whole coast from Cabo Barbas to Cabo Blanco, located in the west coast of the Cabo Blanco peninsula. Some other cliffy areas are used by monk seal individuals, mostly adult males, to defend aquatic territories and to haul out in some beaches below the cliffs. The marine area is characterized by the permanent presence of an upwelling, and its high primary production. It is considered as one of the most productive fishing grounds of the world. All the current reproductive areas, as well as potential new ones are included in the IMMA. The IMMA comprises the only 3 caves used by the seals for breeding, as well as the aquatic territories defended by adult males with possibly reproductive objectives. In addition all foraging by the different age categories of the resident monk seal population is conducted with the IMMA thereby further enhancing the importance of the area to the pupping and weaning of young monk seals.
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