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WILDLIFE

© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF

The Mediterranean Sea is home to amazing wildlife. We want to recover and stabilize populations of key species right across the Mediterranean to maintain their ecological, economic and cultural value for future generations.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The Mediterranean Sea is home to a dazzling diversity of marine wildlife. Though it covers less than 1% of the ocean surface, it holds 1 in 10 known marine species, of which 28% are found nowhere else on Earth. Notable residents include 8 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises; loggerhead and green turtles; monk seals; and more than 80 species of sharks and rays.

But the pressures on the Mediterranean Sea are taking their toll on wildlife. Marine mammal populations have fallen by 41% over the last 50 years. More than half the shark and ray species found in the Mediterranean are classified as endangered. Only around 400 monk seals remain in the Mediterranean.

From whales being struck by ships, to turtles ingesting plastic and competing with tourists on their nesting beaches, to sharks threatened by overfishing, wildlife in the Mediterranean faces many threats.

Did you know?

Fin whales are the second-largest animal in the world, but around 40 are killed in the Mediterranean each year by being struck by ships.

© F. Bassemayousse / WWF France

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Healthy wildlife populations are at the heart of healthy, resilient ecosystems. We focus particularly on three groups of threatened species: marine mammals – including whales and dolphins, and monk seals; sharks and rays; marine turtles.

We work with a wide range of partners to reduce threats to marine wildlife, by spreading ideas that are proven to work and developing innovative solutions. For example, we’re working with the fishing industry to introduce more selective gears that avoid catching species like turtles and sharks, and with ferry operators to install anti-collision systems and plan routes to avoid whales.

We also carry out monitoring work so we can understand more about particular species, the threats they face and the most effective measures to protect them. For example, we’ve fitted tracking devices to whales in the Pelagos Sanctuary so we can plot their movements and behaviour, and also take blubber samples to monitor levels of plastic and other pollutants.

THE SHARK CRISIS REFLECTS THE STATE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

More than half the Mediterranean’s shark species are endangered, and some populations have fallen by more than 96%. Because of their important role as top predators, this has a knock-on effect across whole marine ecosystems.

The worrying status of the marine predators is a clear signal of the overall declining health of the Mediterranean Sea, whose wildlife is decimated by overfishing, according to a new report. In addition to fishing, other threats are increasingly worsening the status of sharks in the Mediterranean. Among these are plastic pollution and seafood frauds.

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By protecting the Mediterranean’s amazing wildlife, we’re helping to conserve the natural environments that we all depend on.

© Michel Gunther/ WWF