The Monk Seal Alliance, co-created by the Prince Albert II Foundation, has held its first international forum in Athens as efforts to protect this critically endangered native creature grow.
The Mediterranean monk seal is on the decline, with an estimated population of only 700 living in isolated sub-populations in the Mediterranean and the north-eastern Atlantic Coast.
The dwindling numbers have raised concerns about the species’ future and in 2019 the Prince Albert II Foundation – along with the MAVA, Segré, Thalassa and Sancta Devota foundations – created the Monk Seal Alliance.
From 31st January to 2nd February 2023, the Alliance met for its first ever forum in Athens, Greece, and stakeholders came together with the ambition of forming conservation action plans throughout the seal’s habitat and getting those involved to commit to sharing research programmes and data.
In all, 42 participants from 14 countries spoke about the work they are currently doing as well as the ways they can collaborate to make their endeavours more efficient at a local level. The group split up into teams to work on the framework for the next call for projects, scheduled to be launch next month.
The Alliance has raised over €2.7 million so far, committing the funds to eight programmes chosen in 2020, which have been making strides in improving tools and methods used to preserve the monk seals and their colonies.
During the forum, more than half of those present signed a Declaration of Intent to create a data-exchange platform that will make the tracking of each project more streamlined.
“HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco’s commitment to the monk seal is long-standing, almost as long-standing as his Foundation, but this collective initiative has given it a new dimension,” said Olivier Wenden, Vice-President and CEO of the Prince Albert II Foundation, in his opening remarks at the event. “Our ambition, from the outset, was to bring together conservation players from the main monk seal distribution areas and mobilise significant resources – financial, of course, but also technical and human – and thus promote the coherence of initiatives and the sharing of experience and data to enable this species to be managed on a relevant scale.”
The Foundation also used the forum as an opportunity to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Natural Environment and Climate Chance Authority (NECCA), Greece’s national agency for marine protected areas.
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Photo source: FPA2