27 Nov. 2000 breaking news @ monachus-guardian.org

Théodore Monod dies / Judge issues ruling in "monk seal starvation" case / Guardian hits newsstands

Théodore Monod dies

Respected French biologist, geographer and environmentalist Théodore Monod died at a nursing home in Versailles on Wednesday 22 November at the age of 98.

From 1939 to 1965 he directed the Institut Francais d’Afrique Noire in Dakar, Senegal, from where he undertook long expeditions into the Sahara, studying the desert’s fauna and flora. In the former Spanish Sahara (now the disputed western Sahara), he was the first scientist to undertake a detailed study of the Coast of Seals (Côte des Phoques). Between 1923 and 1948 he produced several monographs on the monk seal colony’s status, history and exploitation.

Associated Press portrayed him as a "tireless traveler who found spiritual and psychological strength from the desert… a vegetarian [who] once trekked 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) in the Sahara without a single watering hole to prove he could exert himself physically without eating meat."

He was appointed to France’s Academy of Sciences in 1963.

Aside from gaining international renown for his knowledge of the desert, Monod will also be remembered as one of the most outspoken advocates of his day for conservation and animals. Despite advancing years and failing health, he nevertheless lent his name to the ultimately successful 1994 campaign spearheaded by the International Marine Mammal Association and the Bellerive Foundation to prevent monk seals being captured in the western Sahara by Antibes Marineland, a marine circus.

Monk seal publications by Th. Monod

Monod, T. 1923. Note sur la présence du Monachus albiventer Bodd. sur la côte Saharienne. Bulletin du Muséum National d’histoire Naturelle No 1: 555-557.

Monod, T. 1932. Phoques Sahariens. Terre et la Vie (12): 257-261.

Monod, T. 1945. Un Ordre Nouveau de Mammiferes pour la Faune d’A.O.F. Notes Africaines (25): 14-15, Fig. 9-10.

Monod, T. 1948. Le Phoque Moine dans l’Atlantique. Publ. Inst. Zool. Porto (34): 8-19, 1 pl.

Monod, T. 1979. Le phoque "moine" - Pourquoi? Notes Africaines 162: 50-51.


Judge issues ruling in "monk seal starvation" case

The critically-endangered Hawaiian monk seal won protection from a Federal court on 20 November, following a judge's ruling that the National Marine Fisheries Service is violating the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

In issuing a ruling in a case brought by the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of three environmental groups, Federal District Court Judge Samuel King found that NMFS is illegally failing to protect the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal from the impacts of two local fisheries.

The ruling was handed down despite NMFS' efforts to avoid a preliminary injunction, and legal condemnation of a policy that has long been implicated in the starvation of Hawaiian monk seals in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge (see NMFS ducks judgement, The Monachus Guardian 3:2). NMFS' earlier commitment to impose a moratorium on lobster fishing in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands was apparently deemed inadequate by Judge King.

In his ruling, Judge King found both the lobster fishery and a segment of the bottomfish fishery to be in violation of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. He issued an injunction halting the lobster fishery until NMFS completes an analysis of its impact on the monk seals under the Endangered Species Act. NMFS was also ordered to complete an environmental impact statement.

The largest monk seal breeding colony at French Frigate Shoals, the court heard, declined by 55 percent during the 1990s, with juvenile seals starving because of lack of available prey.

Foraging Hawaiian monk seal.
Judge King also ruled that NMFS had been violating the Endangered Species Act by permitting the bottomfish fishery to operate regardless of its impact on the Hawaiian monk seal. Evidence was presented implicating the industry in hooking seals, feeding seals unwanted fish containing ciguatera toxin, and even bludgeoning monk seals. Despite such evidence, NMFS had made no effort to station observers on bottomfish fishing boats.

The plaintiffs in the case – Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network – expressed satisfaction with the ruling. Finding particular praise among the plaintiffs was Judge King's implicit insistence that the precautionary principle be applied by NMFS in justifying fishing activity in the area. With detailed impact assessments now required by the court, plaintiffs expressed the view that NMFS would no longer be able to profess ignorance of environmental impacts for the sake of economic interests.

The full text of the Court's finding is available for download in the Monachus Library:

United States District Court. 2000. Order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' motion for summary judgement, granting in part and denying in part defendants' cross-motion for summary judgement, and granting in part plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction. 15 November 2000: 1-43.

Further reading

ENS. 2000. Hawaiian judge halts lobster fishery to benefit monk seals. Environmental News Service, 20 November 2000. http://ens-news.com/

Johnson, W. 1999. The old woman who swallowed the fly. The Monachus Guardian 2:1, May 1999.

Lavigne, D.M. 1999. The Hawaiian Monk Seal: Management of an Endangered Species. Pages 246-266 in J.R. Twiss Jr. and R.R. Reeves (eds.). Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London. 471 pp.

Marine Mammal Commission. 2000. Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi). Pages 44-55 in Chapter III, Species of Special Concern, Annual Report to Congress, 1999. Marine Mammal Commission, Bethesda, Maryland.

NMFS ducks judgement. The Monachus Guardian 3:2, November 2000.

Ragen, T.J. & D.M. Lavigne. 1999. The Hawaiian Monk Seal: Biology of an Endangered Species. Pages 224-245 in J.R. Twiss Jr. and R.R. Reeves (eds.). Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London. 471pp.


Guardian hits newsstands

The fall issue of The Monachus Guardian was published on 15 November. Highlights of the current issue include:

Guest Editorial – by Sevki Avci… Four Thorny Issues – by Claudia Giammatteo… Monk Seal Philately – by W.M. Johnson, A.A. Karamanlidis, D.M. Lavigne & A.A. Mignucci-Giannoni… Sayings of 3000 Years – compiled from the nominations of numerous contributors… Monk Seal Sightings on Open Beaches in the Desertas Islands, Madeira – by Rosa Pires & Henrique Costa Neves… Monachus Science Posters: A Field Method for Age Estimation of Mediterranean Monk Seal Pups – by P. Dendrinos, E. Tounta & S. Kotomatas, and The Mediterranean Monk Seal in Cyprus – by P. Dendrinos & A. Demetropoulos… Plus… International, Mediterranean and Hawaiian News… Recent Publications… Letters to the Editor, including – Tourism in the Dock by Xavier-Jacques Bacquet…