The Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most endangered marine mammals on Earth. Long known to the people of the Mediterranean and first described by Aristotle, the species endured centuries of exploitation and habitat destruction, which ultimately led it to the brink of extinction. But now, the concentrated conservation efforts to save the species that were initiated 30 years ago seem to be finally paying off. In 2015, the Mediterranean monk seal was delisted from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red Data Species List.
One of the grass-root conservation organizations involved in the protection of the Mediterranean monk seal is the MOm/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk seal. Founded by biologists from the University of Athens, MOm has been working tirelessly since 1988 to prevent the extinction of monk seals in Greece and carries out systematic efforts in research, public awareness and environmental education. The organization also carries out the only rehabilitation program for stranded, injured and sick monk seal pups!
The efforts of MOm have now been recognized internationally, as Dr. Alexandros Karamanlidis, the scientific coordinator of MOm, has been awarded the Society for Marine Mammalogy "Conservation Merit" prize for his work to protect the Mediterranean monk seal. The award, which is awarded for an exceptional contribution toward solving a pressing conservation problem and is presented only for the second time, will be given to Dr. Karamanlidis on October 26 at the 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Halifax, Canada.
"It is an immense honor for me as a biologist and an important international distinction for Greece, since the award is handed out for the second time, but also recognition of MOm's work for the protection of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal," says Dr. Karamanlidis.
We hope that the award will lead to greater recognition of MOm's work by the state, and to more state action to protect the seal that is the symbol of Mediterranean biodiversity.