The Department of Fisheries in Gaza's Ministry of Agriculture reported Wednesday afternoon that a seal arrived at the Gaza Strip coast and shortly after returned to the sea, and that it instructed fishermen not to touch it. At the same time, reports also arrived from the Israeli security system about the case.
Rumors that Yulia, the rare Mediterranean monk seal, was visiting Gaza began surfacing on Wednesday afternoon. A photo of a seal on a beach was published on social media, but it turned out to be an old photo from 2019.
Despite unofficial notification from Gaza officials that Yulia spent a short time on a beach along the enclave, no official documentation of her visit to the strip has been published, unlike her three weeks' worth of visits to Israel's shores.
Yulia was seen for the first time in Israel about three weeks ago. She stayed for a few days earlier in the month at the beach in Jaffa, moved to Tel Aviv, slept in Palmachim, then was seen in Herzliya, several beaches in Sharon, Bat Yam and finally in a closed military area in the center of the country.
Throughout her stay, there were several occasions when she tried to reach the beach, but was frightened by the people there and returned to the water. This is what happened last Sunday, when Yulia arrived at the beach in Bat Yam, and returned to the water after beach-goers got too close to her.
The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the rarest mammals in the world and is in serious danger of extinction. This is an animal that lives only in the Mediterranean region. It is shy and elusive, and tends to hide in isolated caves. The seal's length reaches approximately 2.5 meters and its weight is about 350 kg; it is dark brown-grey with a pale belly.
Before the establishment of the state, seeing seals of this species was a more common sight. Reports of seal sightings were recorded from the 1920s until 1958. In 2010, there were reports of seals beginning to arrive on beaches where several decades had passed without sightings, such as Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Today, the population of Mediterranean monk seals is estimated at about 900 individuals, about 400 of which live on the coasts of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.