Signs of Hope: 1. Seal Sanctuary

Posted: 23 March 2001

Further steps have been carried out to save the rarest seal in the world - the Mediterranean Monk Seal - from extinction after three years of conservation activity and public pressure.

seal© F. di Domenico/WWF/Panda Photo

With only 200-300 of these seals left in the Mediterranean, agreement has been reached, with the Turkish Government, after great efforts by the Underwater Research Society and Mediterranean Seal Research Group (SAD-AFAG) to declare five sites along a 200km-stretch of the Cilician coast of southern Turkey as a permanent sanctuary. These shores, with remote caves and beaches, are home to one of the last remaining colonies of Monk Seals in the Mediterranean.

As First Degree Natural Protection Sites they will be totally protected against exploitation, logging and construction building. Trawlers willbe kept outside the trawling ban zone along the 16 mile-long coastline considered the corezone of the protection area to help protect fish stocks.

In addition, a limited sea area near Kizilliman Cape has been designated a 'no fish zone' as a first example of its kind in Turkey. After monitoring this area, the SAD-AFAG team has found that fish stocks have now increased.

Local fishermen have also been involved. Cellular phones have been given to the local fishermen by SAD-AFAG to help monitor illegal fishing in the area. This includes direct communication with the coast guard to report illegal fishing activities.

The sanctuary was provided as a 'Gift to the Earth' by the Turkish Government, as one of many sought by WWF as part of a global network of marine protected areas.

In addition to the Natural Protection Sites along the Cilician coast, the Kudur Peninsula (near Yalikavak/Bodrum, Southwest of Turkey) has been approved as a First Degree Natural Site for the Protection of Monk Seal Habitats, by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. This brings 15km of coast line, under protection. Three planned tourism zones have been cancelled.

Paolo Guglielmi

Paolo Guglielmi is Head of the Marine Unit, WWF Mediterranean Programme Office, Rome.