The Mediterranean monk seal population is critically endangered. They were common along the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts and on the Atlantic shores of northwest Africa, the Canary Islands, and Madeira. In 1993 they numbered around 500. The population continues to decrease.
Although legally protected, the Mediterranean monk seal has been persecuted for many centuries by fisherfolk for its damage to nets and for the fish it eats. In more recent times, the growth of tourism and human disturbance of remote coasts, rocky islands and beaches are believed to have had a serious effect on their reproductive success. Reserves free from human disturbance and strict law enforcement are vital to this mammal's survival.