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Help Save the Mediterranean Monk Seal


Help Save the Mediterranean Monk Seal

Seals Face Extinction Threat in Greece!


BritsinCrete.gr asks you to help support the efforts to save from extinction the shy Mediterranean Monk Seal which is found in Greece's coastal waters. Monk seals (L: genus Monachus) have been living on Earth for 15 million years. Today in the European Union, however, the most ancient of Monk Seal species the Mediterranean Monk Seal - L: Monachus monachus is on the most critically endangered animal list. Its total remaining population is less than 600 individuals, of which 250-300 is thought to be in the coastal waters of Greece. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature - WWF Greece there are some 35 species of seal living in the world today. Only three species of the genus Monachus live in warm water. One, the Caribbean monk seal, became extinct in the 1950’s.

The Relationship Between Man and Monk Seal

Looking back over millennia, references to the Mediterranean monk seal appear in ancient Greek texts attesting to the attention mankind has given to this mammal. In 8th Century BC Greek mythology, Homer mentions the species in the 4th book of the Odyssey. In the book Menelaus tells Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope of his meeting with Proteus, the sea god who protected the sea’s animals, including seals. Later, historian Herodotus (500BC), scientist, Aristotle (circa 300BC), and philospher, Plutarch (circa 100BC) also mentioned the monk seal in their recorded observations and writings.

The Mediterranean Monk Seal Habitat


Greek waters are today home to the largest concentrations of the Mediterranean seal population. Most live around the islands of the Northern Sporades, the Ionian Sea, the Cyclades, and the Dodecanese.

The Mediterranean monk seal can grow up to three metres long. The bulls are noticeably larger than the females. This streamlined aquatic mammal with flippers is intelligent and graceful but is particularly sensitive to any disturbance. While seals dive for fish, octopus and squid they come ashore to rest and breed. The seals reproduce their offspring in natural caves along Greece's shoreline. A cow monk seal gives birth to just one pup usually every one or two years. A pup is also referred to as a whelp or calf.

Why the Monk Seal is Threatened


Many factors are driving the Mediterranean Monk Seal into extinction:

  1. Intensive fishing, particularly the use of dynamite, chemicals, and night spear fishing, reduce or eliminate valuable sources of food. In their search for food however the seals damage fishing nets. Fishermen consider seals competitors in the fight for survival and some fishermen occasionally kill them.
  2. An equally major factor is the destruction of their habitat by construction and disturbance of the coastal zone.
  3. Water pollution, particularly oil spills.
  4. Trash, especially plastic bags in the water is an ever-expanding trap for seals and all other animals living in the sea.

How You Can Help Protect the Mediterranean Monk Seal


  1. The monk seal, as its name implies, needs peace and quiet, not human company. If you see a seal basking on the rocks in the sun, don’t chase or approach it. The best outcome for the seal would be for you to just quietly pass it by. Try to avoid going into caves that may be occupied by seals.
  2. Make an effort to discuss your concerns about the survival of the monk seal with local fishermen and other residents living along the coastline.
  3. Report to the nearest port authorities any illegal activity at sea, such as if you know that dynamite is being used in fishing, that spear fishing is taking place at night, or people are fishing with SCUBA gear.
  4. Note: To learn more of how the RSPCA in Britain is helping support the injured or sick seals in UK territorial waters, please visit an enlightening, yet short RSPCApodcast

In Greece, Presidential Decree 67/29.11.1980 protects the Mediterranean Monk Seal by law.  The Monk Seal is protected also under the C.I.T.E.S. international treaty to which Greece is a signatory. BritsinCrete.gr reminds you that it is illegal to own, capture, kill, stuff, sell or to transport to another country any seal.
Website of WWF Greece www.wwf.gr/
Address of WWF Greece: Asklipiou 14, 106 80 Athens
Telephone: +30 210 363 4661, Fax: +30 210 362 3342