So after eighteen apocalyptic months, UBC Library is open this week, and while I did not visit my precious old journals, because of pure laziness, it turns out that I wouldn't have been able to see most of them due to the usual robot uprising.
Damn. Should have gone with that instead of copping to being lazy. Anyway, going to lean on the door marked "seals" and see where it takes us!
With Columbus we get coordination between the hemispheres at last. That does not mean that we can rule out a species of convergent coincidence in the years leading up to the voyage of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Apart from climate change, lately the go-to explanation for all historic change, there are things in this world that do not respect the interhemispheric divide that Columbus so decisively broke.substantial populations of monk seals off the Western Sahara and Mauretania have become extinct in recent times), and Namibia. These are also, and probably not coincidentally the main areas of human-pinniped conflict due to either residual fisheries, as in Canada, Japan and Namibia, or frustrated fishers shooting seals, as in Canada, Namibia and, well, everywhere, actually. Except maybe Japan? I've heard they're a bit weird there. The relict Mediterranean monk seal populations make an outsized impression, but one has to wonder if there are cases of local monk seal populations becoming extinct in the Early Modern period with less notice than the Caribbean monk seal.
McClenachan and Cooper's work does not really establish the size of the monk seal population, which we know was large enough to support a Contact-era seal hunt because it only became extinct under heavier hunting in the Nineteenth Century. The reason they take so much care to establish a Contact-era population in the half-million range is to contribute to the ongoing conversation on the role of seal-hunt bans on commercial fisheries. No, they say, the seals didn't eat your fish. On the contrary, in their role as apex predators, they kept coral reef habitat biomass production at a substantially higher level than current. Seal culls and seal bounties aren't going to help.
The close genetic similarity between the Hawaiian monk seal population and the Mediterranean is an argument for relict populations in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, as at the very least Mediterranean and Red Sea/Indian Ocean/Pacific dugong populations are apparently closely related.
Mali, or the Guinea coast in general, is notoriously a demographic source on the largest scale for this entire period. I don't think that the causes of its extraordinary fecundity are well explored, being taken as something that just happened.