monachus guardian monk seal

Dedicated to Monk Seals and their Threatened Habitats


30 December 2006

Antalya conference report released

On 22 December, RAC/SPA released its report on September’s controversial monk seal conference in Antalya, Turkey. The report is available for download following the link below:

RAC/SPA. 2006. Report of the international conference on monk seal conservation, Antalya, Turkey, September 2006. United Nations Environment Programme, Mediterranean Action Plan, Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas: 1-69. [PDF pdf 753KB]

For further background and conference impressions, please turn to November’s Cover Story in The Monachus Guardian, Anatomy of a Conference.


15 September 2006

Greece declines to attend Antalya conference

The government of Greece has announced that it will not be attending the upcoming international monk seal conference in Antalya, Turkey, organised by UN agency RAC/SPA.

The surprise decision followed a similar move by MOm, the principal monk seal research and conservation organisation in Greece, and was apparently taken for many of the same reasons.

According to information received by TMG, increasing frustration with organisational and conference agenda issues at RAC/SPA ultimately prompted the Ministry of Environment to announce the government’s decision to withdraw.

As outlined in earlier conference news bulletins on this site, issues up for discussion in Kemer, Antalya, have potentially far-reaching repercussions for Mediterranean monk seal conservation — a fact that evidently did not go unnoticed by the Greek government.

Linking the conservation action plans governing the Atlantic and Mediterranean populations of the monk seal (and thus the Bonn and Barcelona Conventions, respectively); the possible establishment of a steering committee to guide research and conservation initiatives; the setting up of an international information campaign to promote the monk seal cause; and the creation of an international monk seal fund or trust in an attempt to raise up to 10 million dollars annually for conservation initiatives — these are just some of the principal issues to appear on the conference agenda.

The Greek Ministry of Environment and MOm have voiced growing disquiet over recent weeks that briefing documents on those potentially complex issues have not been made available to prospective participants, and question whether informed decisions can be reached in the brief session times allotted without them.

It was in response to such concerns that RAC/SPA released an IFAW briefing paper on 7 September, outlining possible plans to establish an international fund or trust in support of monk seal conservation (see Further information, below).

While additional documents were also distributed 5 days later, among them, a revised agenda, a list of prospective participants, and a species status review, the Greeks continued to voice concerns to RAC/SPA’s Director that briefing documents crucial to the debate and decision-making process were still missing.

In rejecting the criticisms voiced, RAC/SPA’s director, Abderrahmen Gannoun, reasons that the “information and communication plan to support monk seal conservation” will be presented at the meeting by its sister agency in Rome, INFO/RAC. Where the other two potentially controversial agenda issues were concerned, he went on — the Coordination and Steering Committee issue and the Barcelona-Bonn Convention common work programme — working groups would be established on Day 2 of the conference to allow discussion.

A lack of pre-conference consultation has been a cause of concern among several prospective participants, including some frontline monk seal organisations.

In its letter notifying RAC/SPA of its decision not to attend the conference, MOm states that repeated requests were made for background briefing documents. While emphasising the organisation’s support for effective international efforts and collaboration furthering the conservation of the monk seal and its habitat, Dr. Spyros Kotomatas, MOm’s Chief Scientific Officer states that: “to properly and effectively address these issues, all participants must openly have access [to] the necessary information and have adequate time to prepare their contribution to the discussions in an effective and constructive way. This becomes even more necessary in view of the extremely short time available for discussing each of the above topics.”

In response to MOm’s criticism over a perceived lack of pre-conference consultation, RAC/SPA’s Director defended the agency’s handling of arrangements, stating that “the content of the conference agenda and the different arrangements have been prepared by an organising committee comprising, among others, representatives from three multilateral conventions (Bonn, Bern and Barcelona) the host country and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.”

Dr. Gannoun also went on to express confidence that the experts and institutions invited, qualified in various specific fields, would be present at the conference to guide participants through complex and unfamiliar agenda items.

However, with Greece hosting some three quarters of the surviving monk seal population in the Mediterranean, the absence of both official Greek government and MOm representation is likely to complicate and perhaps even hamper efforts to reach meaningful agreements at the conference.

Further information

IFAW. 2006. Funding Mediterranean Monk Seal Conservation. Quick scan of possibilities and challenges. Prepared by Bart Romijn, Warner Strategy and Fundraising. Commissioned by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), July 2006: 1-22. [PDF pdf 168 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2006. Blue Week. Agenda [revised]. Conference on Monk Seal Conservation, 17/19 September 2006, Majesty Mirage Park - Kemer, Antalya, Turkey: 1-11. [PDF pdf 950 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2006. Blue Week. The Monk seal in the Mediterranean Sea : General situation. Document prepared by Daniel Cebrian Menchero, RAC/SPA: 1-8. [PDF pdf 1.3 MB]

(For earlier conference documents, see listing below)


3 September 2006

Antalya conference agenda released

RAC/SPA, organisers of the upcoming international conference on monk seals, distributed its programme and agenda on 31 August – two and a half weeks before proceedings are due to get underway in Antalya, Turkey.

Prospective participants had been voicing increasing disquiet over the lack of information emerging from the organisers.

The conference programme and agenda are now available for download on TMG. We hope to make additional information available in due course, so please check back again for updates.

RAC/SPA. 2006. Blue Week. Programme and agenda. Conference on Monk Seal Conservation, 17/19 September 2006, Majesty Mirage Park - Kemer, Antalya, Turkey. [PDF pdf 633 KB]


23 July 2006

Antalya conference dates revised

RAC/SPA announced this week that dates for its international conference on Mediterranean monk seal conservation in Antalya, Turkey, had been revised, apparently to resolve scheduling conflicts.

The meeting will now take place several days later than first announced, on 17-19 September.

A letter of invitation, signed by Abderrahmen Gannoun, the RAC/SPA Director, requests those wishing to participate to confirm their intentions by no later than 30 July. If you have not yet received an invitation, but wish to attend, please contact the RAC/SPA Secretariat in Tunis.

In a minor correction to our previous news item [International monk seal conference set for September], we have been informed by RAC/SPA that the acronym “IC” in the draft agenda does not connote International Coordination as we assumed, but “Information-Communication”.

rac/spa poster

download (PDF 310 KB)

Held under the UNEP/MAP banner, with support of the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forests, the conference is taking place as an integral part of the inaugural Med Blue Week, an event called to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Barcelona Convention, the international agreement that brought both the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) and the Mediterranean Monk Seal Action Plan into being.

MAP has been facing increasingly harsh criticism of late, with critics pointing out that it has failed to achieve even one of its priority targets during the last 30 years – including its stated intention in 1985 to assure protection of the monk seal within a decade.

Collaborating in the organisation of the conference, according to RAC/SPA, is the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Turkish NGO SAD-AFAG, the Bern Convention, the Bonn Convention, Monaco and Italy. As noted in previous issues of TMG, IFAW has expressed a willingness to become more fully engaged in international monk seal conservation of late. Recently quoted IFAW discussion papers apparently confirm that intention, stating that: “the species still faces serious threats throughout its range, and IFAW, with its in-house expertise and experience, is well positioned to play a leadership role in co-ordinating conservation and animal welfare efforts to enhance its protection."

Perhaps in view of previous criticism facing MAP – and in recognition of a recent declaration by a Barcelona Convention meeting in Slovenia that the fate of the Plan is inexorably intertwined with the fate of the monk seal – this conference is firmly targeting two potential obstacles to conservation ‘Action’: international coordination (political, organisational) and funding.

While Day 1 of the draft agenda is devoted to regional experiences – such as Greece and Turkey, and the Atlantic area, where a Regional Action Plan under the auspices of the Bonn Convention has been solidifying among the range states (Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Portugal-Madeira) – Day 2 is expressly aimed at the institutional, legal and financial aspects of Mediterranean monk seal conservation.

Sessions include discussion on:

  • The possibilities of linking the developing Regional Action Plan for the Atlantic with the action plan in the Mediterranean (hence the collaboration of the Bonn Convention).
  • The creation of a coordination and follow-up mechanism, such as a steering committee.
  • The establishment of an information-communication plan in support of monk seal conservation.
  • The presentation of concrete project proposals according to approved priorities.
  • Alternative financing mechanisms and the possible establishment of an international monk seal fund.

Called at very short notice due to organisational and funding complications, it is not clear at present whether all of monk seal conservation’s key players will be able to attend the conference.

We hope to provide further updates on the conference as they become available.

Further information

RAC/SPA. 2006. Conference on Monk Seal Conservation. Second announcement. Med Blue Week. Antalya, 17/19 September 2006, Majesty Mirage Park - Kemer, Antalya – Turkey. [PDF pdf 310 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2005. Portoroz Declaration. 14th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean  and its Protocols, Portoroz (Slovenia), 8-11 November 2005. UNEP(DEPI)/MED IG.16/13, Annex V: 1-5. [PDF pdf 273 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2005. Progress report of the activities of RAC/SPA. Seventh Meeting of National Focal Points for SPAs, Seville, 31 May - 3 June 2005. UNEP/MAP, UNEP(DEC)/MED WG.268/4: 1-37. [PDF pdf 449 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2005. Evaluation of the Mediterranean monk seal status. Meeting of MAP Focal Points, Athens (Greece), 21-24 September 2005. UNEP/MAP, UNEP(DEC)/MED WG.270/Inf.22: 1-7. [PDF pdf 127 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2005. Information report on the status of the monk seal in the Mediterranean. Prepared for the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) by Dr. Daniel Cebrian. Seventh Meeting of National Focal Points for SPAs, Seville, 31 May - 3 June 2005. UNEP/MAP, UNEP(DEC)/MED WG.268/Inf.3: 1-45. [PDF pdf 208 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2005. Declaration on the monk seal risk of extinction in the Mediterranean. Meeting of MAP Focal Points, Athens (Greece), 21-24 September 2005. UNEP/MAP, UNEP(DEC)/MED WG.270/17: 1-3. [PDF pdf 77KB]

RAC/SPA. 2003. The conservation of the Mediterranean monk seal: proposal of priority activities to be carried out in the Mediterranean sea. Sixth meeting of the National Focal Points for Specially Protected Areas, Marseilles, 17-20 June 2003: 1-45. [PDF pdf 143 KB]

RAC/SPA. 2003. Progress report of the activities of RAC/SPA. Report on the activities carried out by RAC/SPA since the fifth meeting of National Focal Points for Specially Protected Areas. Sixth meeting of the National Focal Points for Specially Protected Areas, Marseilles, 17-20 June 2003: 1-29. [PDF pdf 124KB]

UNEP/MAP. 1987. Action plan for the management of the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus). United Nations Environment Programme, Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP). Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas, Tunis, Tunis & Athens. [PDF pdf 306KB]

TMG. 2003. Mystery at RAC/SPA – Time for pup-catching, says its anonymous expert(s). The Monachus Guardian 6 (2): December 2003.

Triantafillou, K. Mediterranean governments vow protection for the Mediterranean monk seal – Success or failure of efforts to be a “defining moment” for the future of the Mediterranean Action Plan. The Monachus Guardian 9 (1): June 2006.

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