The Turkish National Action Plan for the Conservation of the Mediterranean Monk Seal in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas
The Mediterranean monk seal conservation issue is one of the vital subjects for the protection of the species diversity and habitat diversity in the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus monachus, though an aquatic mammal, requires terrestrial haul-out sites and caves or caverns to rest and to reproduce. For effective conservation of the species, protection measures should cover both land and sea.
Action Plan for the Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean Seas consists of the following four main vectors. These are habitat management, reduction of the mortality, public awareness programs, and research and monitoring of the Mediterranean monk seal population.
Fourteen sites in Turkey were classified as important for the Mediterranean monk seals (Table 1, Fig.1), by the NGO’s and universities working on this subject. The National Monk Seal Committee’s consensus of opinion is to focus only on five “Monk Seal Protection Areas” (MSPAs).
Fig. 1. The 14 most important monk seal habitats along the Turkish coasts of the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. (1. Gökçeada-Bocaada-Baba Br., 2. Foça-Yeni Foça, 3. Karaburun-Mordoğan, 4. Çeşme-Alaçatı, 5. Dilek Yarımadası-Kuş Adası, 6. Küdür Yarımadası-Bodrum Yarımadası, 7. Karaada-Bodrum, 8. Gökova-Ören, 9. Datça-Bozburun, 10. Göcek-Fethiye, 11. Olimpos Milli Parkı-Kemer, 12. Gazipaşa-Taşucu, 13. Cilician Havzası, 14. Samandağ)
There are five areas which have been accepted as pilot regions by the Turkish National Committee. Those are:
Area 1: covering Gokceada and Bozcaada Islands, Baba Cape, and the mainland vicinity near Canakkale;
Area 2&3: no. 2 between Izmir and Aliaga, incorporating the Foca SPA, and no.3, the Karaburun Peninsula;
Area 4: covering the coastal zone between Cesme and Kusadasi;
Area 6: Bodrum Peninsula, between Guvercinlik and Bodrum;
Area 12: incorporating the 5 recently-announced SIT (Ministry of Culture) protected zones in the Cilician basin, between Gazipasa and Tasucu.
The committee decided to set two sets of conservation codes: General Codes to be implemented in all areas, and Special Codes designed according to the specific needs of each area. Special Codes to be applied to individual MSPAs were evaluated by a Technical Sub-Committee of the NMSC.
The draft General Code includes the following restrictions:
•Entering monk seal caves by any means is prohibited. Only researchers may enter the caves, solely for conservation purposes, provided that necessary permits are obtained from the relevant government authorities.
•All types of construction, such as secondary summer housing (single units or groups), road building (rough or asphalt), all tourist facilities (regardless of whether they are permanent or temporary), and forest cutting are prohibited within 1000 meters from the coast in Monk Seal Protection Areas.
•An as yet undefined speed limit will be imposed on vessels entering MSPAs.
•The regulation of fishing within the MSPAs will be defined by the Ministry of Agriculture with the advice of the NMSC.
No fish farms may be added to the development plans of areas incorporating MSPAs, and existing fish farms will be obliged to install outer protection nets in order to avoid conflict between seals and fish farmers.
As the Committee’s recommendation, in-situ protection measures should take place in GOkceada Island in the Northern Aegean Sea, Foca region in the Central Aegean Sea, Kokar, Sigacik and Dilek Peninsula, Bodrum Peninsula, from Fethiye to Antalya, from Gazipasa to Erdemli and from İskenderun to Samandag.
1. Strengthening the legal implementation and creating new regulations for the conservation of habitats
Background: The habitats of the monk seals are very critical for the animals of all stages. In the last 10 years, these habitats have been destroyed due to various reasons. Conservation of the actual habitats should be one of the short targets in the region.
Many of the common threats associated with tourism, such as increased speed boat traffic, increased diving activities, and sports fishing, are a serious disturbance in the Turkish coast as is in other parts of the Mediterranean. This is mainly due to the rapid and uncontrolled development of mass tourism and intense secondary housing. The tourism season, lasting only a few months, coincides with the monk seal’s whelping season. Unfortunately, increased coastal human activities during this period disturb the breeding habitat, hence, directly pose a threat to the breeding success of the colony.
Although prohibited by law, until recently, visits to the remote seal caves had been a serious problem. Consumptive tourism activities had limited the already scarce number of caves found during the study suitable for breeding and postnatal care. Thus, the remaining number of undisturbed breeding caves once was an important factor limiting the success of reproduction and causing an overall decline in the size of the population.
As indicated by the increased juvenile mortality caused by pupping in unsuitable locations due to loss of preferred habitat, big coastal settlements, thus, habitat loss is the main threat to the decline in the numbers of monk seals. There are many cases where formerly inhabited juvenile caves have been abandoned due to rapid coastal development (Yediler and Gucu, 1997).
Solid wastes such as plastic bottles, bags and packing bands are observed basin-wide in the field surveys and they accumulated generally in caves, at cave entrances, in rocks along the coast, as well as on beaches. These can be ingested by seals and can cause death. Additionally, synthetic fishing nets discarded by fishermen can entangle monk seals. Besides, monk seal habitats are under the threat of accidental oil spills. To mitigate the effect, special precautions should be taken in important seal habitats.
Targets: To prevent habitat destruction, to ban fishing activities, tourism, construction and diving in important seal habitats, to mitigate marine pollution.
A) New regulations for reducing the impacts of tourism to the seal habitats, such as speed boat traffic, diving activities (scuba and snorkeling), sports fishing, near monk seal habitats will be elaborated. The existing laws regarding fishing activities and coastal construction will be reviewed.
B) Yearly clean up of the important seal habitats by collecting plastics and other floating artificial debris will be made in remote areas away from human activities as well as on beaches.
C) Patrolling important seal habitats against illegal and harmful fishing activities, diving and other operations.
D) Establishing an oil spill response plan and equipment.
Responsibility: Ministry of Environment (MoE), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MoARA), Ministry of Tourism (MoT), and Ministry of Justice (MoJ )
Stakeholders: MoE, MoARA, coastguards, artisanal fishermen, local NGO’s.
Prerequisites for implementation: Recent data on important seal habitats, a preliminary field study on above mentioned areas should be made.
Expected problems for implementation: Coordination of the relevant ministries (MoE, MoARA) can be difficult. More effective cooperation of the relevant organizations within the framework of the national strategy for the conservation of the Mediterranean monk seal is expected.
Implementation calendar: This action is carried out for one year.
Preparation of new regulations
Review of existing laws
Establishment of an oil spill response plan and equipment
Patrolling seal habitats
Budget: Total US$ 220,000
Preparation and review of regulations: $20,000
Patrolling important seal habitats for illegal diving, fishing and other activities: $100,000
Equipment for oil spill response for the important seal habitats: $50,000
Clean up campaign for the important seal habitats: $50,000
Monitoring: This action can be monitored by Coast Guard, MoE, and NGO’s with regular patrolling in the seal habitats.
2. Establishment of new special protected areas
Background: As far as fish and monk seals are concerned, two leading problems emerge. These are 1) loss of habitat especially breeding sites for monk seal, spawning and nursery grounds for fish, and 2) destruction of the food web because of human intervention. As the human population increases there is no way to stop the increasing demand on coastal sites, both in the form of industry and urbanization. Therefore, the only solution is to identify and protect the last intact coastal regions with high ecological importance and/or biodiversity.
Targets: To preserve the monk seal habitats, especially the breeding sites as well as the spawning and nursery grounds for fish to enable fish to reproduce and recruit sufficiently. To reduce mortality of and disturbance for the monk seal with newly trained staff.
Description: In these special protected areas all kinds of human activities such as fishing, tourism, diving and construction must be forbidden. These areas will be continuously patrolled by paid staff. Educational materials, such as posters, brochures, and billboards, will be prepared and distributed. It should work in close contact with Coast Guard and local authorities. The following four areas have been already designated as potential special protected areas, namely Gokceada, Karaburun Peninsula, Bodrum Peninsula (these three are in the Aegean Sea) and Cilician Basin (in the Mediterranean Sea).
Foreseen actions can be summarized as follows:
A) To educate new staff for the new special protected areas.
B) To produce new education materials for the aim of the special protected areas for monk seals, from the biological and sociological points of view.
C) To monitor and patrol new protected areas for the monk seals.
Responsibility: Ministry of Environment (MoE). A single governmental authority should be responsible for the allocation and management of marine protected areas with the cooperation of scientific communities and local NGO’s.
Stakeholders: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MoARA), Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Universities, NGOs, Coast Guard, artisanal fishermen, municipalities.
Prerequisites for implementation: Revision of the existing national laws and the unification of responsibilities and authorizations dispersed among various governmental bodies in relation to coastal habitat protection and fishery management.
Expected problems for implementation: Funding for research and infrastructure such as patrol boats and facilities as well as for hiring enough personnel.
Implementation calendar: The action is planned to take one year. However, in conjunction with Action 1, it can be continued for several consecutive years.
Budget: Total US$ 50,000 for each area
An inflatable boat for patrolling: $ 10,000
Educational materials: $ 20,000
Staff training expenses: $ 20,000
If all the four areas already designated as new special protected areas are considered, the total budget will be US$ 200,000.
Monitoring: This action should be monitored by MoE and NGOs specialized in the management of protected areas and monk seal protection with interim and final reports.
3. Reduction of mortality
Background: Among the most serious threats for the monk seals are deliberate killing and entanglement to fishing gears. There have been several seals reported dead by drowning in the nets and by being shot (Ozturk, 1992, 1998).
Fishermen, frustrated with their already small catch, perceived the seals as pests and deliberately killed them to protect their livelihood. According to Berkes (1982) the change from the near self-sufficiency of subsistence fishing to a more capital-intensive commercial fishing makes the fishermen less tolerant of the damage caused by seals.
Incidental catch is the cause of many monk seal fatalities around the Mediterranean. In many cases live seals are released after capture, however, drowning occurs if nylon nets have been used or they may die from injuries caused by the nets. Ozturk (1992, 1994, 1998) reported 24 deaths between 1986-1996 in all Turkish waters, of which 6 were drowned in gill nets. Additionally, 3 pups were reported drowned in gill nets in Foca and Karaburun (Guclusoy and Savas, 1997; Guclusoy, 2000; Guclusoy and Kence, 2001). Among the six dead monk seals found in the Cilician Basin, only a pup was reported to die from incidental catch (Yediler and Gucu, 1997). Considering the heavy fishing activity in the area, this evidence shows that incidental catch poses a threat more for pups, since the types of trammel and gill nets used in the area are not strong enough to retain adults.
Conflicts between monk seals and fish farmers are also increasing as seals damage fish cages. It is possible to protect fish cages against seal attacks. Use of protection nets is enforced by the government in seal habitats and low interest loans should be provided to encourage their use.
Establishment of national stranding network and monitoring program for the monk seal mortality is necessary to understand the number and cause of mortalities, detect unusual mortalities, understand fisheries impact and other interactions.
Targets: To detract fishermen from deliberate killing by education and by showing alternative methods to deter seals. To establish a database and a stranding network for stranded or deliberately killed monk seals in the Turkish coasts. To update information for dead seals, such as a possible reason of death, place of animal found, biological data of dead animals.
A) Establishment of a national stranding network to monitor monk seal mortality. This network will also serve for the evaluation of the colonies.
B) Producing public educational materials against deliberate killing.
C) Studying seal-deterring mechanism on fishing nets to avoid net damages made by seals
Responsibility: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MoARA), Ministry of Environment (MoE)
Stakeholders: MoARA, MoE, fisheries cooperatives, artisanal fishermen, owners of fish farms, local NGOs, Coast Guard.
Prerequisites for implementation: Cooperation with local fishermen and fish farmers.
Expected problems for implementation: Fishermen and owners of fish farms may not be cooperative.
Implementation calendar: This action is foreseen for one year period of time.
Budget: Total US$ 70,000
Educational materials: $ 20,000
Establishing a stranding databank: $ 30,000
Study on seal deterring system: $ 20,000
Monitoring: MoE should monitor fisheries cooperatives for awareness campaigns. Databank should be monitored by NGOs with collaboration of MoE.
4. Public awareness program
Background: Although there have been several public awareness campaigns for the protection of the monk seals in Turkey, the level of public awareness has not reached sufficient yet. This kind of effort has to be continued for younger generations, different areas, etc., so that this can contribute to the protection of the monk seals in the long run.
Target: To raise public awareness on the protection of the Mediterranean monk seal so that the implementation of various protection activities can be effective as they receive support from a wide range of people.
Description: Education mostly for fishermen, local people, harbor authorities, coast guards, school teachers, students, and tourists about the Mediterranean monk seal in terms of protection. This action is to provide them with up-to-date information from the scientific community and state authorities, with the help of a special documentary film, conservation guide books, stickers, booklets, and other educational materials.
Responsibility: Ministry of Environment (MoE)
Stakeholders: MoE, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Fisheries Cooperatives, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Tourism, NGOs and other local organizations, schools, tour operators, divers.
Prerequisites for implementation: Financial sources
Expected problems for implementation: Although there will be some focused areas for this action, it is favorable that this action can cover all over the nation, which needs large funds.
Implementation calendar: This action is carried out for two years.
Budget: Total US$ 150,000
Posters and stickers: $ 10,000
Brochures: $ 5,000
Mobile Exhibitions: $ 50,000
Conservation guide books: $ 20,000
Documentary film: $ 50,000
Monitoring: This action will be monitored by progress reports.
5. Research and monitoring of the Mediterranean monk seal population
Background: Although there have been several successful studies on some of the monk seal colonies on the Turkish coasts, currently there is no accurate information on the number of seals. This is particularly critical in the overlap zone in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. It would be very useful to re-estimate or to up-to-date the information on the monk seal habitats and the colony size or structure both at sea and land (haul-out sites, beaches, around caves and caverns, etc.) for more effective conservation of the monk seals in the Turkish coasts.
Targets: To better understand the number of individuals and population parameters, such as sex, size and age, of the Mediterranean monk seals in the Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey and to monitor their habitats as well.
Description: Observations in all monk seal habitats that already known will be made from both sea and land to determine actual population size and structure. At the same time, those habitats will be monitored for any changes. The sighting information will also be collected from yachtsmen, divers, fishermen, and so on.
Responsibility: Ministry of Environment
Stakeholders: Universities, yachtsmen, divers, local people, local authorities and small scale fishermen, NGOs.
Prerequisites for implementation: Local people, including NGOs should cooperate.
Expected problems for implementation: None
Implementation calendar: This action is carried out for three years.
Budget: US$ 300, 000
Research cruise: 25,000 USD per cruise* x 12 cruises: US$ 300,000
*This includes logistic supplies, GIS operations, diving expense, digital mapping and other expenses.
Monitoring: This action can be monitored by international or national authorities with the interim and final reports.
Overall Picture of Turkish National Action Plan
Schematic interrelationships among the foreseen actions are shown below. It is obvious that these actions are strongly related to one another. Many of the tasks within each action overlap, such as the preparation of educational materials. The coordination of these actions, therefore, is considered very important to use resources effectively.
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Guclusoy, H., Savas, Y. 1997. The Current status of the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus (Hermann, 1779) in Foca Protected Area, Turkey. In:
Guclusoy, H. 2000. Pup drowns on Karaburun. The Monachus Guardian. International Marine Mammal Association (IMMA) Inc. Guelph, Ontario, Canada http://monachus.org/mguard05/05mednex.htm#Turkey
Guclusoy H., Kence, A. 2001. Evaluation on Mediterranean monk seal conservation studies productivity in Foca OCKA. In: Ozhan, E., Yuksel, Y., (Eds.), Turkiye’nin Kiyi ve Deniz Alanlari III. Ulusal Konferenasi, Turkiye Kiyilari 01Konferenasi Kitabi; 26-29 Haziran 2001; İstanbul, pp, 345-355. (in Turkish)
Gucu, A. C. 1998. Mediterranean monk seal of the Cilician Basin, Northeastern Mediterranean. In: Abstracts for the Workshop on the Biology and Conservation of the World’s Endangered Monk Seals, the World Marine Mammal Science Conference, Monaco, p. 22.
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Kırac, C.O. 1998. Oil spill at Cavus Island, a clean-up operation to save monk seal habitats at Gumusluk, SW Turkey. Ed. W.M. Johnson. The Monachus Guardian 1 (1): 16-18.
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Ozturk, B. 1994. Application of national protection strategy of the Mediterranean monk seal and Foca pilot project. Report submitted to Turkish Ministry of Environment. 135 pp. (In Turkish.)
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11th National Seal Committee Meeting has been organized after two years in the Ministry of Environment in 20.10.1997. TUDAV also participated to this meeting. İ.Ü., ODTÜ, SAD and TUDAV took their places in the science committee.
The firsth science committee meeting was in 01.12.1997 in the Ministry of Environment, Ankara. During the meeting, 37 Mediterranean Monk Seal habitat was determined and 20 of them is the priority areas.
Mediterranean Seal National Union was organized in Istanbul and TUDAV hosted this meeting. Union was formed form a scientific organizations, including .İ.Ü., ODTÜ, TUDAV, SAD.
12th National Seal Committee Meeting was organized in Mersin-Silifke during 20-21 December 1997. During the meeting the report which was prepared by Science Committee and National Mediterranean Monk Seal Union, was discussed. A decision has taken on the subject of establishing new regulations on the fishery in Mediterranean Monk Seal Habitats in Mersin, which is one of the priority area.