A dead juvenile Mediterranean monk seal was found in Limassol’s Moni area and a necropsy will be carried out by the veterinary services to determine, if possible, the cause of death, the department of fisheries and marine research (DFMR) said on Friday.

But it clarified that the death was not unprecedented, adding that the population of the endangered species in the sea off Cyprus has risen to 19 as a result of a series of measures adopted in recent years.

The department said that officials who went to the scene after being notified, had found a dead seal aged between two and three. The animal was taken to the veterinary services where an necropsy will be carried out.

Monitoring and protective measures have led to a return of monk seals to Cyprus to breed. “Since 2011 and henceforth we have seen an increase in the frequency of reproductive activity, and as a result we have an increase in the number of individuals sighted in Cyprus’ waters from the five to six individuals which were recorded in 2009 to 19 today. The fact that a dead individual was found is not unprecedented as there have been dead animals in the past,” it said.

Actions to protect the Mediterranean seal and other protected species started in 1971 through the fisheries law and regulations, long before Cyprus joined the EU in 2004. With Cyprus’ accession to the bloc, marine areas have been included in the EU’s Natura 2000 network within the framework of EU directives. These zones are important in protecting protected marine species, including the Mediterranean seal, which is a priority, it added.

Among measures to protect seals, the department has identified the most important coastal areas for the species and recently held consultations with stakeholders to establish additional protected marine areas.

“It is very important that people and society stand as allies to the work being carried out by the DFMR to protect the marine environment. The presence of priority species such as the Mediterranean seal is proof of the good ecological state of our marine environment,” it concluded.

The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) is currently the most endangered marine mammal species in Mediterranean and the rarest seal species in the world. The global species population is estimated to be less than 700 individuals of which approximately 350-450 are mature individuals.