Monk seal in Greece
Some 200 – 250 Mediterranean monk seals are estimated to survive in the Aegean Sea in Greece, with another 100 in Turkish waters (Here). Greece has allocated a significant area for the preservation of the Mediterranean monk seal and its habitat in the Alonissos Marine Park, which is supported by the MOm organisation.
Damage inflicted upon fishermen’s nets and rare attacks on off-shore fish farms in Turkey and Greece are known to have pushed local people towards hunting the Mediterranean monk seal, but mostly out of revenge rather than population control. Preservation efforts have been put forth by civic organizations, foundations, and universities in both countries since as early as the 1970s. For the past 10 years. many groups have carried out missions to educate locals on damage control and species preservation. Reports of positive results of such efforts exist throughout the area.
In the Aegean Sea, only Greece has allocated a large area for the preservation of the Mediterranean monk seal and its habitat. The Greek Alonissos Marine Park, that extends around the Northern Sporades islands, is the main action ground of the Greek MOm organisation. MOm is greatly involved in raising awareness in the general public, fundraising for the helping of the monk seal preservation cause, in Greece and wherever needed. Greece, is currently looking into the possibility of declaring another monk seal breeding site as a national park, and also has integrated some sites in the NATURA 2000 protection scheme. It should be stated that the legislation in Greece is very strict towards the hunting of the seal and in general the public is very much aware and supportive of the effort for the preservation of the Mediterranean monk seal.
Researchers are keeping the location of the colony secret to avoid having the seals disturbed by human visitors.It is the only place in the region where seals lie on open beaches, rather than hide in coastal caves. Alexandros Karamanlidis, scientific co-ordinator of the Mom/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk seal, explained that this was the seals’ “original behaviour”.
MOm’s goal is to inform and motivate the public, including both local communities as well as visitors to island areas regarding the protection of the Greek seas and the Mediterranean monk seal!
In ancient Greece, monk seals were placed under the protection of Poseidon and Apollo because they showed a great love for sea and sun. One of the first coins, minted around 500 BC, depicted the head of a monk seal, and the creatures were immortalized in the writings of Homer, Plutarch and Aristotle. To fishermen and seafarers, catching sight of the animals frolicking in the waves or loafing on the beaches was considered to be an omen of good fortune.