The monk seal and the Alonissos National Marine Park

The Mediterranean monk seal ( Monachus monachus ), is one of the two remaining species of monk seal. It once spread to all the shores of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the eastern Atlantic. Today, with less than 600 animals, it is one of the rarest and most endangered animal species on the planet and is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. About half of the population, around 250-300 people, live in Greece.

The dramatic decrease in population is mainly due to the human factor. Since ancient times it was hunted for commercial purposes because of its skin and fat. The Romans also used them for entertainment purposes in Roman arenas. In the Aegean, sandals and belts used to be made from leather and the fat was used in the preparation of some matzouni. Even today it is persecuted as a harmful animal by fishermen because of the damage it can cause to their nets when entangled in them. Their deliberate killing by humans in the Greek seas remains the leading cause of death for adults of the species.

An important step for the protection of the Mediterranean seal and its habitats was the proclamation of the Northern Sporades region as a protected area and the establishment of the Alonissos National Marine Park of the Northern Sporades. The contribution of the non-profit, non-governmental organization MOm was decisive in the organization and operation of activities such as informing the public and monitoring the situation of the Mediterranean seal population, in cooperation with the competent authorities. According to the agency, at least 55 different adult animals have been identified as frequenting the marine park area, and an estimated eight more are born each year.

Part of MOm's action is to raise awareness and information of locals and fishermen as well as to rescue and care for sick, injured and orphaned animals. For this reason he created the Mediterranean Seal Care Center in Alonissos, which is the only one in the Mediterranean and operates in combination with the rescue and information collection network of MOm. It houses only the newborn, mainly orphan seals that were separated from their mother, usually due to weather conditions. Larger animals are treated on the spot. The Rescue and Information Collection Network (RINT) is based on members from all over Greece, mostly non-specialists, who regularly send information and information from coastal and island areas.

Greece is preparing to declare a second area in the Aegean as a protected marine park with one of the main objectives of this operation "the protection and conservation of the important population of the endangered Mediterranean seal Monachus monachus". It will be called Regional Marine Park of North Karpathos, Saria island and Astakidonisia .

The other water park in the country is the National Marine Park of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea. According to the WWF, which conducted a systematic census of seal population in 1991, 14-18 people find shelter in the area. It is the largest known population in the Ionian.

Together with the two areas in Turkey, in Foca of Izmir and in the Province of Mersin, they are the only protected seal shelters in the Mediterranean. The NGO SAD-DAFAG που δραστηριοποιείται στην περιοχή υπολογίζει τον αριθμό των ζώων σε περίπου 100.

In the Atlantic there is the protected area on the Deserta islands of Madeira, where there are encouraging signs of recovery after intense protection efforts by the Portuguese management authority, and the number has risen to 25-35 seals. Further south, in the White Cape, the Moroccan Navy is patrolling the no-fly zone to reduce the main cause of seal death, fishermen's nets, and rescue the largest seal group of 130 seals.

Adopt a seal yourself or become a volunteer and help save the Mediterranean Seal.

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