Foca Monk Seals / Mediterranean Monk Seals
One of the most important figures of Foca is the existence of Mediterranean Monk Seals, or Monachus monachus in Latin. This seals are amongst the most-threatened mammal species in the world with only 400 left all around the earth and declining, therefore they are included in the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species. Half of them are found in the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Greece, and other half is in the Atlantic Ocean. Being a part of international environmental protection treaties, Turkey acted in 1991 to set up protection areas for Monk Seals in Foca near Izmir and Yalikavak near Bodrum on the Turkish coast. The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Foca Project started in July 1993 and supported the SAD-AFAG Group (The Underwater Research Society – Mediterranean Seal Research Group). WWF also works on monk seal conservation in Greece and Mauritania.
Fourteen sites in Turkey are classified as important habitats for the Mediterranean Monk Seals by the NGO’s and universities working on this subject, some of them along the Turkish coast are: Gokceada-Bozcaada-Baba tip triangle, Foca-Yeni Foca towns, Karaburun-Mordogan peninsula, Alacati town near Cesme, Dilek Peninsula in Kusadasi, Kudur Peninsula near Bodrum area, Karaada village in Bodrum area, Oren village in Gokova Gulf, Bozburun near Datca, Gocek near Fethiye, Olympos National Park near Kemer, Gazipasa-Tasucu area, Cilician Basin, and Samandag town near Hatay. The National Monk Seal Committee focuses on five Monk Seal Protection Areas especially.
Mediterranean monk seals prefer to live and breed in clean waters being rich of caves. They have a life span between 25-40 years, weight around 300 kilograms when adults, eat octopus and fish. Lately, these species were threatened by the urbanization and industrialization, extensive building of summer houses, water pollution, over-fishing or fishermen, and finally mass tourism. Unfortunately they can’t live in captivity so they have to breed in their natural habitat such as the Mediterranean and the Northwest coast of Africa. The estimates of the number of Mediterranean Monk Seals are as follows: Albania 20, Algeria 10-30, Turkey and Cyprus 20-50, Desertas in Madeira (Spain) 8-10, Greece 200-250, Libya 5-20, Mediterranean coast of Morocco 10-20, Cap Blanc in Mauritania 130, Croatia 25.