Important shark and ray areas mapped in the Mediterranean and Black Sea

Important Shark and Ray Areas

85 Important Shark and Ray Areas, protected places for rare and endangered species, have been officially delineated in the Mediterranean and Black Sea after a five-day conference held in Greece.  

Thanks to participants at a recent five-day workshop in Thessaloniki, Greece, which was organised by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Shark Specialist Group and hosted by iSea, 85 Important Shark and Ray Areas (ISRA) have been mapped in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.  


ISRAs are described as discrete habitats used by one or more species that are clearly marked and have the potential to be managed for conservation efforts.  

Whilst they are not officially protected areas, the delineation of these areas will allow policymakers to better consider the habitats of sharks, rays, and chimaeras when developing and implementing management measures. 

The ISRA project uses the best available science to “identify regions across global waters most critical for the long-term survival of sharks, rays, and chimaeras”. These include places where the animals mate, reproduce, feed, rest or gather, as well as marking out major stopover points during migration. 


Over 180 experts gathered both online and in person for the working conference, which compiled swathes of current data to configure the new zones.   

“We are very happy to host the ISRA workshop in Thessaloniki,” said Ioannis Giovos, Director of iSea. “The Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot of shark and ray extinction risk and the ISRA process will help us identify priorities for conservation and area-based management as well as understand gaps in knowledge.”  

This workshop is the second of 13 planned regional events, which have been organised around the world. Supported by the Shark Conservation Fund, the next event will take place at the Western Indian Ocean workshop in September 2023.  

Final results from this most recent workshop are to be announced in August, after a rigorous peer review process. 


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Photo credit: Egidio Trainito



Basketball: Tracing the Roca Team’s meteoric rise

AS Monaco Basket following their qualification for the Euroleague Final Four

In the space of just nine years, AS Monaco Basketball have gone from toiling in the French third division to a place in the Euroleague Final Four.

The Roca Team of 2014 is unrecognisable to the European behemoth that is about to take centre stage at the Euroleague Final Four in Kaunas, Lithuania on Friday. From the ownership to the players and even the stadium, everything has changed.

Les Monégasques were toiling in the third tier in 2013. By 2015, the team had not only secured back-to-back promotions, but also a new owner, in the form of Sergey Dyadechko. The businessman arrived in Monaco in 2012, having survived an assassination attempt in his native Ukraine, and under his stewardship, he would ultimately guide the Roca Team to the top of the European game.

The changing face of the Salle Gaston Médecin

Year after year, the club’s objectives have been revised upwards: “It’s a team with means,” said Amara Sy, who wore the colours of the Principality between 2015-2019.

They certainly put those means to good use. Just a year after promotion, the club won one of three consecutive Leaders Cups. But beyond France, the club set its sights on Europe; an objective they would soon achieve.

As the club grew, so did their home: the Salle Gaston Médecin. The hall, which sits within the Stade Louis II, was renovated in 2014 and 2015 before an expansion, in line with the Roca Team’s increasing profile, in 2016. Further expansions would be necessary in the future.

The Salle Gaston Médecin in 2016 by Gael13011

It was a 3,000-capacity court that hosted the EuroCup in 2019 in what would be just the first of many European adventures. Their first season was curtailed by the Covid pandemic, but they wouldn’t have to wait long to get their hands on some European silverware.

The following year, and in their first full season, Monaco won the EuroCup.

“As soon as there is the possibility of playing a full EuroCup season… Bam, we’re champions of Europe!” said former Roca Team player Sy. Their place in the Euroleague was booked.

Monaco profit from Russian expulsion

Consequently, further expansions of the hall were necessary. In 2021, the Salle Gaston Médecin could hold 4,000 spectators, slightly below Euroleague regulations, but which allowed them to compete in their first campaign in the top tier of European basketball.

In the space of just five years, Monaco had gone from a minnow to a giant, but they certainly weren’t a European giant quite yet. Their budget reflected that; it was one of the lowest of all Euroleague teams.

However, despite that, Monaco created a roster capable of competing; a roster which included Mike James, fresh from a spell with the Brooklyn Nets. He would be the talisman to guide Monaco to the playoffs, although their route to them was certainly unconventional.

Should Monaco not have made the playoffs, their future in the Euroleague would have been in considerable doubt. For large parts of the season, that looked like being the case, but a bold decision by the club’s director to bring back Sasa Obradovic to replace Zvezdan Mitrovic paid dividends.

Photo of Sasa Obradovic by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

The returning Serbian coach oversaw a Monégasque surge up the table, although it still looked insufficient to lead them into the playoffs. Their qualification was sealed off the court rather than on it.

The expulsion of Russian teams from the Euroleague following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine handed Monaco a lifeline and gave them a shot at reaching the playoffs, which they took.

Monaco knocked at the door of the Final Four but didn’t knock it down, losing a five-game thriller to Olympiacos in the quarter-finals. However, their run had ensured one thing: their continuation in the Euroleague for the following season.

Tides of change, but remnants of continuity

Midway through the season, the torch was passed from Dyadechko to Aleksej Fedoricsev, marking the end of an unequivocally successful reign as chairman. More sweeping changes were to come in the summer.

Just a year after its latest renovation, the Salle Gaston Médecin was once again transformed, lifting the capacity to over 4,600, whilst replacing the antiquated plastic yellow seats with a sleek wooden design.

The new Salle Gaston Médecin by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

The changes to the roster were also wholesale. The team that took to the court at the beginning of the 2022/23 season was unrecognisable. By the start of the season, none of the 2020/21 cohort remained, and seven of the 12 players on the roster for this season were new to the Roca Team entirely.

However, the era of annual makeovers is over; continuity is the operative word.

We want to build a stable roster and we want that continuity. We want to avoid situations where we’re significantly changing the roster. Once you reach Euroleague level, you cannot build up the team the same as you’ve been doing before,” Yefimov told Monaco Life at the start of the season.

The recruitment has been an unequivocal success. The arrivals of champion of France Élie Okobo and Jordan Loyd have lifted the creative burden off the shoulders of James. This year, it has been the collective that has triumphed rather than the individual. The result is a logical and comfortable qualification for the end of season play-offs, and beyond that the first Final Four qualification for a French team since 1997.

Whilst the Roca Team can certainly be defined by interminable change this past decade, there are figures of continuity that are inseparable from their success. Notably Yefimov, the club’s director who joined the club in 2015, and whose acumen and recruitment have allowed Monaco to build year-on-year.

Yakuba Ouattara by Pascal Della Zuana/ Icon Sport

Then there is Ouattara, whose personal growth runs parallel to the club that he now captains.

“Our objectives are higher and higher as the seasons pass, and the club gives itself the means to reach them,” said the France international after the club’s qualification for the Final Four.

Monaco are now a European behemoth. With that status, the era of great and rapid change is over. For Yefimov, Fedoricsev and the rest of the Roca Team, the focus will turn towards consolidation.

After last year’s play-off qualification, Yefimov told Monaco Life, “I don’t believe anyone could have imagined where we ended up.”

The clearest sign of the club’s growth is that this season, no one can be surprised by Monaco’s presence in Kaunas. At the beginning of the season, Obradovic said, “We want to write another chapter in the club’s history.” And like each chapter in this “fairytale” story, the next one is always better than the last.


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Photo credit: Michael Alesi / Palais Princier

Burglary rate in PACA amongst highest of all French regions

Burglary PACA

There were 23,400 actual or attempted home robberies in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in 2022, the third highest figure in the whole country. 

France’s statistical agency INSEE puts out a yearly report on the regions of France where the most burglaries or attempted burglaries occur. In 2022, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region hit 7.5 burglaries per 1,000 homes, far higher than the national average of 5.8.  

In real numbers, this means 23,400 PACA homes were at least under threat of robberies last year, putting the region solidly in third place nationwide, with only French Guyana at a rate of 11 homes per 1,000 and Île-de-France, the region including Paris, at 7.9, above it.  


The numbers for PACA were pushed up in part due to high criminal activity in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, which has France’s highest number of reported burglaries at 11.4 per 1,000 households, and the Vaucluse, which saw 9.6.  

The other departments of the region fared a bit better. The Var had 5.9 robberies per 1,000 homes, followed by the Alpes-Maritimes at 4.5, 3.8 for the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and 2.1 for the Hautes-Alpes, one of the nation’s least targeted departments. 

Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, Arles and Avignon were amongst the hardest hit by criminals, but were less affected than Saint Tropez and Vidauban. Coastal Alpes-Maritimes homes were also more likely to be targeted than those inland.  


On French territory, municipalities located in dense population areas with strong income inequalities and a high median standard of living were the most exposed to offenses. Rates of burglaries were nearly twice as high in cities than in rural settings, and in what INSEE calls “areas of attraction”, such beach destinations. Intruders tend to look for easy pickings, so it’s not surprising that second homes, which sit empty at least part of the year, are often targeted.  

“[The burglary rate] is on average 5.4 in areas with less than 50,000 inhabitants, 6 in those between 50,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, 6.3 in areas between 200,000 and 700,000 inhabitants, and 11 in the Marseille-Aix-en-Provence catchment area, the most populated,” said the report of the PACA figures.  

PACA is also notable as being the only region where poor municipalities have higher robbery rates than the richest ones, on average. This regional anomaly can be explained by Avignon and Marseilles being relatively “poor” though with high break-in rates. That being said, the rates are higher where income gaps are biggest, being four times those of towns where the disparities are smaller.  


Whilst the report isn’t comforting, it should be noted that there has been an overall 9% decline in home thefts in the region between 2016 and 2022. The national average is 15% less.  

Read more:

Opération Tranquillité Vacances: French police offer free home surveillance


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Photo source: Fred Pet

Cooking Up A Country – a recipe for independence and love

A rom-com movie project situated in a real-life fairy-tale Principality is the recipe that Dutch indie film Producer Muriël Horst, owner of Equs Film, is playing up with a side of pomp at the Cannes Film Festival.

‘Cooking Up A Country’ is a screenplay in development based on a self-published novel by the British writer James Vasey, a part-time resident of the self-declared independent Principality of Seborga, a hilltop medieval village based just over the border on the Italian Riviera.

‘Cooking Up A Country’ is a love story between an English academic and a Princess, who happens to be a chef in the village restaurant. It is set against a battle for survival of a traditional lifestyle in a globalised world, a problem that the English outsider and Michelin star chef try to solve. Like fish ‘n’ chips and Barolo wine, Ben and Alessandra are an unlikely pairing, yet their shared passion for food and wine, and the community where they finally find peace, are the binding agent in their recipe for love.

Granted irrevocable independence in 954 by the Counts of Ventimiglia, Seborga was ceded to the King of Sardinia and Savoy in 1729. However, in 1960 local flower grower Giorgio Carbone revived faded dreams of independence claiming that the sale was never legally registered and declared himself His Tremendousness Prince Giorgio 1st.

Princess Nina and British writer James Vasey. Photo credit: Kaidi-Katariin Knox

The picturesque village of Seborga has just 300 residents and overlooks its wealthy neighbour the Principality of Monaco with whom Seborga shared two rulers in the 16th century.

The movie project is supported by Seborga’s real-life Princess Nina Menegato who says that it will shine a light on the micro-nation’s efforts to seek official recognition. “We have been working on this for some years and this film would give Seborga a lot of visibility and create great economic opportunities. ‘Cooking Up A Country’ is not just a fun love story, but it is also about bigger themes that the world is struggling with,” said Nina.

Seborga, a self-declared Principality. Photo credit: Kaidi-Katariin Knox

Equs Film owner and Producer Muriël Horst is bringing Seborga’s ceremonial guard to the Cannes Film Festival for a photo-op on Sunday 21st May and to accompany interested partners to the Principality, including Producer Mark Foglino (The King’s Speech), Remco Mastwijk CEO visual effects company Filmmore, and Roberto Lo Crasto, Head of Production at the Genova Liguria Film Commission. Seborga is just a one-hour drive from Cannes and the guests will be granted an audience with Princess Nina, a ceremonial tour and a lunch to taste local culinary specialities.

Horst, who is also a part-time resident of the Principality of Seborga, says the project literally came to her. “Have you ever found yourself in a place that is just like a movie? And you are reading a book about that place that is so good and funny that you wished it really should be a movie? So that’s what I did. I set on this journey to share the story of ‘Cooking Up A Country’ with the world,” said Muriël Horst.



Princess Nina: “I want to put Seborga on the map”



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Monaco Life with press release. Photo above: Princess Nina and Producer, Muriël Hurst. Photo credit: Kaidi-Katariin Knox.

F1: Charles Leclerc and ACM react to deadly floods and Imola GP cancelation

Charles Leclerc and the Automobile Club de Monaco have sent their condolences to the people of Emilia Romagna, which was set to host the F1 this weekend, after floods on Wednesday killed nine and forced the evacuation of thousands.  

The difficult decision to call off this weekend’s Grand Prix in Emilia Romagna was taken on Wednesday, following discussions between local authorities and organisers.

Widespread flooding in the region has already claimed nine lives, while more than 10,000 people have had to be evacuated. Prior to the cancellation, F1 personnel were told to avoid the paddock area. The decision was later made to scrap this weekend’s race altogether, which F1 has described as “the right and responsible thing to do”.

“Emilia Romagna is our homeland”

As a result, the 23-race calendar has been reduced to 22 races. The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was supposed to be the last race before the Monaco Grand Prix, which takes place the following weekend.

The decision to cancel the event has been universally welcomed by teams and drivers alike. Leclerc took to Instagram to encourage donations to support those affected by the flooding.

“Strength and courage in this difficult moment, guys,” said Ferrari’s Monégasque driver.

Ferrari’s Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur has also reacted to the cancellation, saying, “Emilia Romagna is our homeland and it’s heartbreaking to see what people are going through at the moment.”

The ACM also sent their support to those affected by the severe flooding in the Italian region.

“The Automobile Club de Monaco would like to send its thoughts and support to those affected by the rain in the Emilia Romagna region, to the emergency services that have been mobilised, as well as to our colleagues, the local promoters of the Imola Circuit, and the F1 community,” reads a press release from the Monegasque racing institution.

The Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday 28th May is, therefore, the next race on the calendar, before the grid heads to Spain just one week later.


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Formula One: Walking the Monaco Grand Prix Circuit


Photo by Alex Ferrero

Photos: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene at the Maria Callas Gala and Awards

Monaco has celebrated Maria Callas’ centenary with a spectacular gala concert and awards ceremony dedicated to the legendary soprano in the Monte-Carlo Opera House, attended by the Princely Couple.

The Maria Callas Monaco Gala and Awards, inaugurated in 2021, is inspired by the legendary gala which was first held in Monaco in 1960, where the great Opera Diva Maria Callas, hailed as “La Divina” (the Divine one), enchanted Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco with her unique voice.

The American-born Greek soprano often spent time in Monaco with her lover, the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. On display throughout the Maria Callas Gala and Awards on Saturday evening were her personal memorabilia, including her identity card and a Gucci bag gifted to her by Princess Grace.

On 12th May, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene joined more than 300 guests, including famous Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, for the gala and awards.

Ioanna Efthimiou, president and founder of the Monaco Gala and Awards, says she wanted to pay tribute to Callas’ remarkable career.

“I want to bring the legend back to Monaco, in the place that embraced, loved and admired Callas the most,” said Efthimiou, an internationally renowned contemporary artist. “I want Callas lovers to revive this mythical and historical era by offering them the opportunity to live a journey of art, refinement and luxury inspired by the magical world of Opera.”

MC Emi Livaniou, Nana Mouskouri, Ioanna Efthimiou and presenter George Davlas. Photo credit: Eric Mathon/Prince’s Palace

More than 300 guests watched on as Prince Albert and Princess Charlene presented the Maria Callas awards, designed by Brazilian artist in Monaco Marcos Marin, to several people in recognition of their work in opera, environment, health and education, and culture.

They included Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, Greek actress Mimi Denisi, and opera singers Vassiliki Karagianni, Victoria Buleeva and Kristine Opolais, who performed for guests with the Orchestre de Paris in the Salle Garnier of the Monte-Carlo Opera.

Award winner Victoria Buleeva performing with the Orchestre de Paris. Photo credit: Eric Mathon / Prince’s Palace

The evening culminated in a dinner at the Salle Empire of the Hôtel de Paris where an art auction by Art Curial Monaco was also held, featuring works by international artists including Jacob Vilato, Pablo Picasso’s nephew. Money raised from the auction went towards the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation.

Ahead of the gala, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene inaugurated the ‘Maria Callas – 100 years’ exhibition at the Monte-Carlo Casino.

Prince Albert and Princess Charlene looking at Maria Callas memorabilia. Photo credit: Eric Mathon / Prince’s Palace

Maria Callas was born on 2nd December 1923 and died of a heart attack in Paris on 16th September 1977 at just 52 years of age.

A series of commemorative events are being held across the globe in recognition of one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century.


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Photo above: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene with Ioanna Efthimiou on the left and award designer Marcos Marin on the right. Photo credit: Eric Mathon / Prince’s Palace