A new case of a monk seal being killed deliberately was discovered last weekend in Samos island. This intensifies our concern about the increase in the rate of the Mediterranean Monk Seal population decline – the most endangered species of marine mammal in Europe.
After being informed by local residents, the Archipelagos research team spotted the unfortunate animal floating dead in the sea to the North West of Samos. The seal was a juvenile male of approximately 1.5m in length and did not exhibit any external wounds. The autopsy conducted by Archipelagos’ marine biologists found no pathogenic cause of death while it also established that the seal had fed normally just a few hours before its death.
These facts, combined with the extensive internal bleeding and other findings, have led to the conclusion that the death was caused by a shock wave of exploding dynamite used for illegal fishing.
Archipelagos is preparing a lawsuit against the currently unknown perpetrator of this crime, while is also contributing in the investigation that is trying to identify the person responsible for the killing of this seal.
Despite being signatories of international conventions as well as national legislation, by which Greece is bound to protect the Mediterranean Monk Seals, protection measures are left wanting and little effective action is taken. In recent years millions of untargeted funds have been spend in urban centers in order to protect the species – this has not been an effective nor efficient solution to the problem:
There is the “war of survival” between the fishermen and marine mammals, which are competing for the few fish left. This results in increased interaction between them, with increasingly frequent damage to fishing gear caused by seals and dolphins, while the mammals “stealing” fish from the fishermen to survive.
So even though effective measures should have already been taken to give an end to this inevitable competition, instead fishermen are left helpless to cover by themselves the true cost of conservation of this highly endangered species in Greece.
However it should be noted that despite the cost implications of the losses for coastal fishermen, the Greek seas is where the largest remaining population of Mediterranean monk seal survives worldwide. Therefore, deliberate killing of monk seals such as this recent incident, is perpetrated by a minority of fishermen and such actions should not and do not characterize Greek fishermen as an industry. Most fishermen coexist with marine mammals, expecting that eventually the national and EU authorities, as well as the civil society, will take responsibility to protect both marine mammals and fishermen.
This recent incident could be a reason for the fishermen to isolate and vilify anyone who takes illegal actions and contributes to the extinction of rare species from the Greek seas.
For anyone that has mistaken this seal for the seal that the fishermen have named “Argyro”: Please know that Argyro is safe and sound thanks to the efforts of Archipelagos’ members and hard working volunteers from the local community, who are monitoring and protecting her for the past 7 months.
Research Director, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation