Headlines – News – Articles
26th August, 2016

Amendment of the regulation on disturbance of monk seals in sea caves in Turkey

Cem O. Kıraç and N. Ozan Veryeri, SAD-AFAG

The existing regulation on disturbance of Mediterranean monk seals in caves along the Turkish coast was amended exactly as proposed by SAD-AFAG in January this year and published by the DG Fisheries & Aqua Products in the Official Gazette on 13 August 2016. The amended regulation reads as follows: “It is forbidden to use any light source inside, dive by any means into, enter by swimming or any other way into, wait or anchor in front of either underwater or surface entrances to caves used by Mediterranean monk seals”. The amended version of the related article was published in both, the Professional Aqua Product Fishery Circular No 2016/35 and the Recreational Aqua Products Fishery Circular No 2016/36.

Tourist boats in front of monk seal caves…

Tourist boats in front of monk seal caves…

…a thing of the past?

…a thing of the past?

Although the threats for monk seals along Turkish coasts greatly differ from region to region in the country, disturbance to monk seals in sea caves, their ultimate refuge along the remote coasts, is a real menace for the species. The problem is especially prominent in popular diving locations with cliff and rocky shores, such as in Çeşme, Kuşadası, Bodrum, Fethiye, Dalaman, Marmaris, Kaş, Kekova, Kemer, Antalya and Alanya, where monk seals still breed and are present permanently. Suitable sea caves are the only places within the species’ habitat for reproduction and resting, and therefore play a crucial role for the continued survival of this rare marine mammal.

Diving into monk seal caves, a thing of the past?

Diving into monk seal caves, a thing of the past?

The previous version of the regulation, in force since 1991, simply read “it is forbidden to use any light source inside and diving by any means into caves where monk seals live”, which also has been proposed by SAD-AFAG, in the very first National Monk Seal Committee meeting in Ankara in January 1991. However, over time it has been realized that some of the tourism stakeholders, mainly daily excursions boats and some tourist diving companies, have been diluting the above mentioned article of the Aqua Products Circular and claim that letting their customers enter the monk seal caves by boats or by swimming, is not covered by the previous regulation and for this reason they have the freedom to enter sea caves as they please. Therefore, SAD-AFAG deemed it necessary to prepare an amendment submitted to the DG Fisheries & Aqua Products (under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture & Husbandry) in January 2016 with its official communiqué dated 5th January 2016 and No. SAD-16/03 given below, filling-in the “legal gaps” that were misused by some stakeholders.

In the same proposal to the new Aqua Products Circular, SAD also proposed in cooperation with other relevant NGOs such as the Recreational Underwater Hunters Society (İzmir), the Development of Artisanal Fishery Society (İstanbul) and the Recreational Line Fishery Society (Ankara), the prohibition of fishing of two demersal fish species; Dusky grouper Ephinephelus marginatus and White grouper Ephinephelus aeneus, whose stocks have been heavily depleted in Turkish seas. The DG Fishery and Aqua Products (BSÜ GM) has accepted the proposal and these two demersal fishes are included in the list of species completely banned for fishing in the next 4 years period from 2016 to 2020. It is believed that one of the best ways to suppress the increasing populations of Lessepsian species and invasive aquatic species along the Turkish coasts of the Levant Sea and the Aegean Sea is to help recover populations of originally resident species such as groupers, sea bass, sea bream and dentex. Supporting marine ecosystems in a holistic approach will surely have a positive impact on the conservation of endangered predator species such as monk seals, sea turtles and shark species.

Further information in Turkish:



18th August, 2014

Tourism could help save Mediterranean monk seals, but if unmanaged it will only accelerate their demise

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara


[…] Unfortunately, the monk seal breeding season happens to coincide in part with the peak of the tourist season, a coincidence likely to result in making the seals even more endangered than they already are, as I had the opportunity of documenting yesterday in an undisclosed location of the Northern Dodecanese, in Greece.

There, sheltered on a small sandy beach at the far end of a large cave carved in the cliff of a small, uninhabited islet, lives today a female monk seal with her small pup. As it happens, the location is also very popular with tourists from nearby islands, who converge there aboard day-trip boats organised by local operators, as well as with their own vessels; and the word has spread that seals can be visited in the cave.

Well-managed, tourism could be a bonus for monk seal conservation because of the high value that visitors attribute to such charismatic animals. This value can be harnessed to the benefit of the local communities, which would then strive to protect the seals or, at a minimum, stop destroying them. However, in the current total absence of management, anyone can imagine the amount of disturbance that this seal pair is subjected to, in a most critical phase of their existence and in a moment in which their quiet and peace should be guaranteed at all costs. […] Full article.

1st June, 2014

Mediterranean monk seal reportedly harassed by drunken tourists in Pula, Croatia

Official Pula Facebook page issues strong warning

The early morning appearance of the monk seal aroused the interest of some drunken tourists, according to a report in Vecernji List, which reported that the tourists tried to force the monk seal back into the sea, before attempting to force it back into the sea by grabbing its tail. Their attempts failed, as local authorities were quickly on the scene to stop the actions of the tourists. [Read more at Digital Journal]

1st August, 2012

Harassment of Croatian monk seal by tourists captured on camera

Disturbance of a beach-loafing Mediterranean monk seal by tourists on the Croatian island of Cres, has been caught on camera and published by local NGO Blue World Institute. The species, once considered effectively extinct along this coast, has been making something of a comeback in recent years. Though some have characterised the incident as ‘minor’, accusing conservationists of exaggeration, it is perhaps worthwhile noting that such disturbance to a resting monk seal would be considered illegal in Hawaii, potentially incurring fines of up to $50,000. The return of the monk seal to Croatia is likely to result in increasing interactions of this kind, both in number and intensity. It is perhaps time for the Croatian authorities and international bodies concerned with the survival of the species — whoever they may be — to map out practical strategies to minimise the impact of such interactions.