The Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, is the world ́s rarest seal species. It is classified by the IUCN as Endangered and the total population is estimated to consist of 700 individuals. Greece, along with Turkey, hosts with a total of ca. 350 individuals, the largest remaining population in the Mediterranean.
The Ionian Sea is a hot spot for this endangered monk seal and this actively reproducing population could potentially re-colonise the entire Adriatic-Ionian Region if adequate and effective conservation measures were implemented throughout the area. This would include the monitoring of safe corridors and marine protected areas to ensure natural re-colonisation could take place, as well as guarantee the genetic flow between distant regions.
Corfu, in the middle of this region and close to all neighbouring areas already being monitored, is a very important part of this “puzzle” to be included.
Aware of the urgency of such data, the IEF supported Archepelagos to begin a series of surveys in this region.
The surveys and research undertaken this summer included:
- habitat surveys around the Erimitis Peninsular and NE Corfu
- photographic documentation of caves and the area in general
- installation of cameras in caves
- monk seal observations in the area of study
- public awareness raising
- organisation of a local network for registering rare marine mega fauna.
Building a bank of data about the endangered monk seal, and spreading awareness about the urgent need to recognise and protect this species, is a critical step in enforcing and creating conservation corridors and marine protected areas around the Ionian Islands to ensure that the monk seal can reproduce and thrive.