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Greeks care little for endangered seals

- by Joe Mason

Greeks care little for the fate of endangered dolphins and seals in the Mediterranean, claim wildlife and ecology experts. Despite the marine mammals being vital to the ecology of the Mediterranean, many are routinely killed by becoming entangled in fishing nets. There is evidence that some are deliberately killed by fishermen to protect fish stocks.

Experts from Society for the Protection of the Monk Seal (Mom) said: 'While all indications that the Greek seas as a valuable venue for the survival of these rare species their presence is necessary for the ecosystem of the Mediterranean, the majority of Greek public opinion ignores the importance and even the existence marine mammals in our country.'

Now Mom, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (UK), the Institute of Cretacean Research have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of marine mammals in Greek waters.

They claim the accidental tangling in fishing gear is responsible for 23% of deaths the rare Mediterranean seals. And they claim that 27% are deliberately killed by fishermen.
In the past 20 years of the 1,460 marine mammals reported dead on the Greek coast 147 were killed by humans. They say 106 dolphins were killed by entanglement in fishing gear while 40 were deliberately killed.

The Mediterranean Monk seal has been on the 'critically endangered' list for 14 years while six species of cetaceans found in Greece including the blower, common dolphin, porpoise and bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphins and stachtodelfino are now classed as endangered.

The National Maritime Park of Alonissos was the first to be founded in Greece and comprises Alonissos and six smaller islands as well as uninhabited rocky outcrops and was set up to try and protect rare maritime species.

The Greek seas play permanent host to the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus), in striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) , the zifio (Ziphius cavirostris), the sperm (Physeter macrocephalus), the stachtodelfino (Grampus griseus), the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus).

A further five species of marine mammals visit Greek seas including the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), the perjury (Pseudorca crassidens), northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), the mesoplodontas (Mesoplodon sp.) And stenoryncho dolphin (Steno bredanensis).