Caribbean monk seal

By erionna jones

Extinct species

The last confirmed sighting of the seal was in 1952 in the Caribbean Sea at Seranilla Bank, between Jamaica and the Yucatán Peninsula. This was the only subtropical seal native to the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.


Caribbean monk seals used to be found in warm temperate, subtropical and tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the west Atlantic Ocean. They probably preferred to haul out at sites (low sandy beaches above high tide) on isolated and secluded atolls and islands, but occasionally would visit the mainland coasts and deeper waters offshore. This species may have fed in shallow lagoons and reefs.


Caribbean monk seals were killed by hunters beginning when Spanish explorers arrived from Europe . Besides early explorers, fisherman, sailors, and whalers targeted and opportunistically took this species for its fur hides, meat, and oil. Hunters were able to closely approach these seals due to their non-aggressive and tame behavior. They were also captured and killed for display in museums and zoos. Fishing, coastal development and other exploitation activities infringed on these animals, and may have caused them to abandon their critical and vital habitat or depleted their prey resources.

Conservation Efforts

Even though the Caribbean monk seal has not been sighted alive since the early 1950s, it was still listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act from 1967 until 2008. In 2008, NMFS concluded that the species is extinct

Other Seals At Risk

Just two other monk seal species remain: Hawaiian and Mediterranean monk seals, both of which are endangered and at risk of extinction. Populations have fallen to below 1,200 and 500 individuals.