Mediterranean monk seals in Turkey’s southern coast of Mersin are facing increased threats due to the neglect of the authorities, who have given the green light for the filling of the sea near one of the habitats of this protected species.
The coastline is known to be one of the country’s most important sheltering and breeding areas for monk seals. But the redevelopment of the port to support the coal and cement projects planned to be built in Mersin’s Silifke district might negatively affect their survival, according to a report published on the online news portal Bianet.
Three monk seals have already died in recent weeks, but experts warn the toll could be higher as the Yelişovacık port in Mersin’s Silifke district is no longer a safe area for the creatures.
An investigation conducted by experts from the Middle Eastern Technical University’s (ODTÜ) Institute of Marine Sciences into the death of a young monk seal showed that its cause of death was a combination of malnutrition and a partial stroke connected to physical injuries, Bianet reported. The report stressed that the cement poured into the water has destroyed the monk seals’ feeding areas.
“The most basic point is to stand against looting the area with the sole concern of taking economic advantages,” said Serdar Sakınan, one of the ODTÜ experts who carried out the investigation.
Sakınan also accused the companies involved in the project of continuing the construction despite a stay of execution order. “A young monk seal that was born in the area died due to this situation. Those monk seals can very well be a nice symbol for being a protected species and adorably cute,” Sakınan said.
Mediterranean monk seals mostly seek refuge in inaccessible caves – like in Mersin’s coast – and newborn seals are much more vulnerable to the dangers that can be caused by their environment, as well as from human activity. According to Bianet, ensuring that monk seals stay alive until age one is crucial for their survival.