Field Studies on Mediterranean Monk Seal and Coastal Habitats Accomplished in Gökova SEPA

Studies on the presence of Mediterranean monk seal and its habitats completed within Gökova ICMM Project funded by BBI Matra funds.

Research studies on Mediterranean monk seal and its habitats accomplished within the Gökova SEPA located in Gökova Gulf covering whole area between the dates of 4 to 9 May 2010.

Cem Orkun Kıraç and Project Manager Nesimi Ozan Veryeri from SAD-AFAG research team, free diver Erkin Tonguc and Can Görgün, the chairman of Akyaka Fishery Coop., who has wide experience on the area, participated in the surveys. The studies initiated from the northern border of 207 km long Gökova Special Environmental Protection Area, performed to cover entire Gökova SEPA region and the islands. Fieldwork was carried out using 8,5 m long fishing boat navigating at low speed. Potential habitats of Mediterranean monk seal in the Gökova Gulf are revealed and distinctive and impressive new information obtained about the coastal and marine areas. Breeding habitats of Mediterranean monk seals have been identified and an adult female Mediterranean monk seal was found and photographed in the bottom of a deep cave. Female adult individual, whom found in a cave around Akyaka- Ören in the northern side of the gulf, was also recorded with video camera.

As a result of literature review, field survey and habitat research studies since January 2009, it’s revealed that whole Gökova SEPA region covers important coastal habitats for the Mediterranean monk seal. As known, Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) is an endangered species worldwide and in CR category, critically endangered, according to the IUCN criteria. Monachus monachus has around 600 members in the world, and it’s representing with 100 individuals in our country. Mediterranean monk seal can be found mainly in untouched and pristine coasts of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas but unfortunately no longer exist in the Black Sea. These rare marine mammals and the pristine shores as its habitats are under protection by the Bern, Barcelona, CITES and Landscape conventions to which our country is also party.

Interviews and one-to-one intelligence studies on the factors threatening presence of Mediterranean monk seal and its habitats will continue to be carried out during the summer 2010 with the fishermen operating in the region all year round. The data derived about the presence of Mediterranean monk seal and its habitats will shed light on the draft management plan to be prepared for the Gökova SEPA Region in cooperation among SAD-AFAG, local NGOs, EPASA, MARA and other professional stakeholders.