Phase two of the monk seal monitoring project is set to begin in 2021, with KOSAMARE and collaborators making use of a constant stream of new data from four caves in the Ionian Islands.
The data are being utilised by the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews, in a study of cave occupancy by the seals, to be completed in 2021.
We are collaborating with the Tethys Institute (Ionian Dolphin Project) to carry out monitoring in the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago (Nat 2000 site GR2220003) . We will be collecting visual data using our camera systems, and acoustic data. The Octopus Foundation will be involved with installing additional cameras to build a full picture of the conservation potential in the area.
In 2020, we worked with the French National Centre for Scientific Research, providing logistical support for two studies: one on commercial sponges; and the other collecting oral histories from fishermen on Kefalonia. Beginning in 2021, we are working in direct collaboration to study the interaction of monk seals with local fish farms. The intention is to determine whether a possible local increase in the number of monk seals can be attributed in part to a constant food supply from the fish farm. This initiative will also investigate perception and conflict between fishermen and monk seals through interviews.
Mitigating negative interactions between monk seals and fisheries has been the focus of concerted conservation actions in all four main parts of the species’ range.. Damage to fishing gear by monk seals, including aquaculture installations, can be substantial (MOm, 2009), making the already precarious financial situation of coastal fishermen in the region even more dire. The early indications of our engagement with local fishermen is that this is not an issue locally. While this a positive finding, it requires more thorough analysis, as incorporated by our research plan.
This project highlights the need for engaging local fisherman, and the community, in conservation work. Participatory management will ensure the best conservation results for the marine environment.