monk seal

The Mediterranean Monk Seal is threatened by Poros fish farms

April 27th, 2023

Seals exist for about 20 million years, they descend from land and are related to bears! The Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), “our own” seal spieces, is the rarest of the 33 species existing in the world. Half of the total population lives and reproduces in Greece. Furthermore, some seals make their appearance in the waters of the Saronic gulf and Poros in particular. That means that the Mediterranean monk seal is threatened by Poros fish farms.

The value

The Mediterranean monk seal is an important link in the food chain, because it is a top predator.

The existence of top predators in the marine environment is very important for the protection and stability of ecosystems. Consequently, the Mediterranean monk seal is considered an indicator of the marine environment health. Its disappearance also means the beginning of the marine ecosystems degradation.

The distribution

The largest population of the Mediterranean seal worldwide lives and reproduces in Greece. It is estimated at about 400 seals just in Greece. The species still occurs in many coastal and island areas. It shows a preference for isolated, rocky and inaccessible islets or coasts.

Between 2006 and 2013, MOm (Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Mediterranean Monk Seal), through the Hellenic Rescue and Information Network, recorded 296 reports of Mediterranean monk seal appearance in the Argosaronic region and Attica’s coasts. Of these, 19 were about newborns. So, the Mediterranean monk seal not only occurs but also breeds in this area.

What’s more, a rare event has also been recorded in an amateur video. A seal’s visit to the port of Poros in February 2015.

The threats

With a worldwide population of just around 800, the Mediterranean monk seal is considered “critically endangered” and is included in the Red Book of the Threatened Animals of Greece.

According to the Greek Fauna Documentation Center, the most important threats faced by the Mediterranean monk seal are:

  • Death because of deliberate killing
  • Drowning from accidental entanglement in fishing gear
  • Habitat fragmentation and deterioration due to human activities (industry, aquaculture, agriculture, tourism)
  • The reduction of available food due to overfishing
  • Pollution
  • Natural causes

The future

Poor management and destructive practices lead to reduced catch numbers, with negative consequences for both anglers and seals. This fact creates a competitive relationship between them.

But the view that prevails now is that we can take protective measures for both sides. For example, one proposal is to create a network of seal foster islands, with sustainable tourism and profits to cover compensation for the nets.

Katheti supports the perspective of a sustainable economy, which does not waste the “capital” of our natural heritage, but develops by using its “interest”. This way, we will avoid the degradation of the ecosystem, on which we directly depend, and we will upgrade our lives. The big issue of the marine environment degradation is the reason why Katheti is against the Areas of Organized Aquaculture Development (ΠΟΑΥ) at Poros, as even the Mediterranean Monk seal is threatened by Poros fish farms.

Learn more here.

Join Katheti’s work!

Featured image credits: P. Dendrinos (MOm)

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