The last of their kind
Monk seals are among the most mysterious mammals in Europe. Little is known about the way of life of this species. The seals, which once had a population covering the whole Mediterranean region and neighbouring seas, are now greatly endangered. In 1985 IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, declared the Mediterranean monk seal to be one of the twelve most endangered species worldwide. Working with partners from different countries EuroNatur has been actively involved in the protection of these seals.
What are the threats to the monk seal in Europe?
Habitat destruction, pollution of sea waters and overfishing are challenging the survival of the monk seal. Undisturbed sandy beaches and rocky coastal cliffs and grottos have become rare in their entire area of distribution. Scuba divers, tourists and fishermen are increasingly invading the remotest spots. This means that not only are the valuable quiet places for the seals to rest under threat but the very rearing of their young.
Where is EuroNatur active in the protection of monk seals?
The largest colony of Mediterranean monk seals is not in fact in the Mediterranean but at Cap Blanc, a peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Mauritania. This is the main focus of EuroNatur's work for the protection of these seals. Alongside this are there is also a further central area of distribution and that is in Greece. Since the beginning of the 1990s EuroNatur has been working on the Greek island of Alonnisos for the protection of the monk seal colony living off the coast there. After years of persistent lobbying, in March 2007 we reached an important milestone with the establishment of a functioning management for the National Marine Park of the Northern Sporades. That was the central aim of the project there and EuroNatur then withdrew from that area.
What actions is EuroNatur undertaking for the protection of the monk seals in Europe?
- Preserving what is still there: we are devoting our energies to maintaining the few populations of monk seals with a chance of survival.
- Developing successful measures: Working with our local partners we are developing measures with which we can secure the long-term survival of the monk seals.
- Creating valuable databases: investigations of the populations and of the ecology of the monk seals form an essential foundation for successful measures.
- Securing food for the seals: setting up protection zones where fishing is prohibited and encouraging sustainable fishing methods both work to improve the food situation for the monk seals.
- Preserving habitats: establishing protection zones for coast and sea waters ensures the preservation of valuable places of refuge and rest in which the seals are undisturbed and can raise their young in safety.
- Creating perspectives for monk seal and Man: with educational outreach and measures for regional development we can win the support of the local population for nature conservation projects.