Muğla Province Monk Seal Action Plan Follow Up & Implementation Continued

Within the scope of Muğla Seal Species Action Plan Monitoring Implementation, the usual field survey, habitat identification and seal monitoring field studies, which take place at least twice a year, were successfully completed with the 2023 autumn leg.

In accordance with the cooperation protocol between the 4th Regional Directorate of DKMP of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Turkey and the Ankara-based Association for Underwater Research (SAD), coastal habitat surveys, monitoring of seal habitats, identification of seal individuals, support for population determination, training-awareness activities and expanding the AFBIKA network to reach volunteers who will record seal observations have been carried out on all Muğla coasts since April 2021.

During the last fieldworks in April-May 2023 and October 2023, the coasts of Bodrum, Datça, Dalaman, Fethiye and Seydikemer were surveyed respectively. Using the Association’s research boat “Bahtiye M.” moored in Bodrum Harbour, SAD-AFAG expert researchers and divers examined the hard-to-reach and sea-entrance coastal caves one by one. The infra-red light source photocapture cameras were maintained and the card batteries were replaced. A total of 11 coastal caves were inspected on different days and infra-red light source photocapture cameras were maintained, new cameras were installed in some of the caves, and card batteries were replaced in all of them. The SAD-AFAG team consisting of Cem Orkun Kıraç, Filiz Yalınkılınç Bozoklar, Cengiz Özel, Erkan Ataklı and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Oğuz Yiğiterhan was accompanied by Chief Fatma Karahan from the Datça Directorate of the 4th Regional Directorate of DKMP in Datça Peninsula. Muğla Seal TEP Monitoring Application team carried out camera maintenance changes in coastal caves with sea entry and low speed coastal navigation habitat scanning with a research boat. On the northern coast of Datça Peninsula, 4 seals were seen and photographed by SAD-AFAG photographers and detailed shots were taken by Assoc. Prof. Dr. O. Yiğiterhan with a drone. In addition to the seal sighting records taken around Cape Knidos and on the southern coasts of the Peninsula, the presence of seals on the northern coasts was known from previous years. With these latest observations and visualisations, it has been updated that the species is still healthy and more dense in this region compared to other coasts. Likewise, seal sighting records were obtained from both caves and local fishermen in suitable Mediterranean monk seal coastal habitats on the coasts of Dalaman, Fethiye and Seydikemer.

As a result, the presence of Mediterranean monk seals was determined on all the relevant coasts of Datça, Dalaman, Fethiye and Seydikemer districts by obtaining 2022 images from the camera cards of the previous period with the images of 2023 during the 2023 field studies and the images were included in the record files. Within the scope of SAD-AFAG’s other research projects of previous years and Muğla Seal Species Action Plan Monitoring Implementation studies, a total of 26 seal individuals have been identified for Muğla coasts from past to present. In fact, the seal population in Muğla province is higher, but this number should be known as the minimum number of identified individuals, since not every seal individual or individuals seen can be identified. The number of confirmed seal sightings in 2021, 2022 and 2023 (partial) were recorded in the SAD-AFAG records as 126, 253 and 122, respectively, totalling 501 sightings. Some of these observation records are first-hand and reliable observation data provided directly by SAD-AFAG researchers, while others are provided by our AFBIKA members.

In Turkey, Mersin and Muğla are among the most important provinces for the conservation of this rare species and its habitat. One of the most prominent threats to the existence and survival of the species is the degradation and fragmentation of marine and coastal habitats that host Mediterranean monk seals and other coastal species. This conclusion was obtained as a result of many years of research and scientific data on the coasts of Turkey. Construction, concretisation and the opening of new roads on the last remaining untouched and natural coasts destroy the habitats of not only Mediterranean monk seals, but also otters, black falcons, puffins, groupers, seagrass meadows, dunes and coastal wetlands, which are integral parts of typical marine-coastal ecosystems, and thus disrupt the continuation of generations. If there is no habitat, it is impossible for species to exist and sustain their generations. Scientific publications published not only in Turkey but also in Greece, another country sharing the Aegean Sea, show the same results. In the Monachus monachustürreport on the official website of the IUCN Red List (Red List), the degradation and fragmentation of seal coastal habitats in coastal areas is listed as the 1st reason threatening this rare species.

© 2023 SAD-AFAG


Translated with (free version)