The Foundation has made the conservation of endangered species one of its priority missions since its creation. It is from this perspective of preventing the extinction of emblematic species that the Foundation is committed to protecting the Mediterranean monk seal.
With only 450 - 510 individuals remaining, the Mediterranean monk seal is one of the most threatened mammals in the world. This species has been affected by the degradation of its habitat due to urbanisation and tourism. Monk seal are also being hunted by fishermen who view them as competitors for their economic activity
For 12 years, the Foundation and the Mediterranean monk seal experts network have been setting up a conservation project for this species. The Foundation played a pioneering role in the organisation of two meetings of experts in this issue in Monaco. These workshops allowed for a project to be established that is today a benchmark for this species’ conservation strategy.
The project is based on the uninhabited Island of Gyaros, which was in the past the site of a military prison and is located in the north of the Cyclades. This island is home to the largest and most dynamic monk seal population in the Mediterranean. A firm commitment was thus established between the Foundation, the local stakeholders and their technical partners.
In 2013, with the support of the European Commission, that the Foundation, WWF Greece and six other partners began the LIFE+ Nature project in order to establish, using innovative methods, a unique Marine Protected Area (MPA) on the NATURA 2000 site around the Island of Gyaros. This MPA, with its ecosystem-based management and the development of the marine area, represents a great opportunity both for the Mediterranean monk seal and local fishermen: the Mediterranean monk seal is protected and local fishermen benefit from a renewal in fish stocks.
Through this project, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation illustrates its vision of an environment integrating the interest of local communities and biodiversity protection in a synergic manner.