Mediterranean Monk Seal

Monachus – Monachus Seal

The Mediterranean Monk Seal is one of the worlds most endangered mammals. Monachus – Monachus, to call it by its Latin name, is one of three species of Monk Seal. It once swarmed through the Mediterranean and adjoining Atlantic while the other two species were common in the Pacific and Caribbean. These represent the only genus of seal found in tropical seas.

The Caribbean Monk Seal Monachus tropicalis was spotted by Columbus when he arrived in the New World. Then it was abundant but it was also shore loving and exploitable. Soon it was being slaughtered in droves. In 1707 a West Indian traveler wrote:” The Bahaman Islands are filled with seals. Sometimes fishers will catch a hundred in a night”. The last was sighted in 1952 and now the species is almost certainly extinct.

The Hawaiian Monk Seals. Now the last remaining 3000 or so are carefully protected in a reserve at French Frigate Shoals off Hawaii and its numbers have stabilized. They are the best hope for survival of the genus.

mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus

The Mediterranean Monk Seal gave its name to two ancient cities, Phocaea in Attica and Phocaea in Asia Minor, and, as late as the 15th century, was plentiful enough to fuel a commercial fishery.

The Mediterranean monk seal is the No1 endangered marine mammal in Europe. It is also in the top 6 list of the most critically endangered mammals on earth and in the top 12 most critically endangered animals world-wide.

According to available data, the largest global population of the species lives and breeds in Greek seas while accounting for approximately 90% of the European population of the species.

According to past estimates, the size of the monk seal population in Greece is between 200-500 seals (Marchessaux and Duguy, 1979; Vamvakas et al., 1979). More recent data indicates a population of 200-250 seals (Reijnders et al., IUCN, 1993).

All the monk seal wants is to continue living in the ancient seas for which it was designed. But those waters are gone now: pollutants, plastics and fishing lines ride the waves, and fishermen kill them because they believe that they steal ‘their” fish.

MOm, the Hellenic Society for the Study and the Protection of the Mediterranean Monk Seal

Greek scientists, conservation organizations and wildlife authorities have developed a collaborative Greek National Program for the Protection of the Monk Seal under the coordination of MOm

MOm, is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, which was established in 1988 by a group of biologists and researchers from the Departments of Ecology and Zoology of the University of Athens. They were soon joined by sensitized citizens, concerned about the state and the protection of the marine environment.

The goals of the Society is the study of the Mediterranean monk Seal aiming to understand the biology, ecology and behavior of this species, and its protection with all legal means, including the raising of the public’s awareness.

The National Marine Park of Alonnisos N.Sporades (NMPANS), is the first to be founded in Greece. It is situated in the Eastern Central Aegean sea, near the well known island of Skiathos. One of the main aims of the creation of the Park is the protection of one of the most important habitats of the monk seal (Monachus Monachus), which is high on the list of species threatened with extinction, both in Europe and worldwide. With the research -ecotourist 25m. boat OCEANIS, they organize ecotourist programs in the NMPANS and other areas of Greece (Ionian islands, Cyclades etc.) as part of their efforts for the protection of the Mediterranean Monk Seal and management of its important habitats.

MOM is also responsible for the operation of the Seal Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, always in collaboration with the Seal Rehabilitation and research Center, Pieterburen, The Netherlands. The rescue team working in the center has been specially trained in the Netherlands on the treatment of seals. The Seal Treatment and Rehabilitation Center began operating in 1990, with the donation of an intensive care mobile unit by the Seal Rehabilitation and Research Center of Pieterburen. In the intensive care unit, which is located at Steni Vala, Alonissos, MOm has treated several orphan monk seal pups.

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