A rare Mediterranean seal was found skinned and dead in Bodrum, raising questions about poaching for seal fur.
Teetering on the brink of extinction, the number of Mediterranean seals living off Turkish coasts is only 90 to 100. These sparse numbers were made worse with the discovery of a dead seal near Çatal Ada rocks in the Bodrum district of Muğla.
Underwater Research Association Ğ Mediterranean Seal Research Group, or SAD-AFAG, Coordinator Cem Orkun Kıraç said it was the first time they had seen such a death, but everything would be clear after an autopsy.
The dead seal was skinless and was found by divers near Çatal Ada, four miles away from the Turgutreis district in Bodrum. The seal measured 180 centimeters long and weighed 160 kilograms.
Diver Metin Şimşek, 33, said large fishing boats were in the region and the seal probably got stuck inside the net, but its skin must have been taken off for sale.
Died a week ago
The Mediterranean seal was found dead with its skin ripped off. The seal was brought to Yalıkavak for an autopsy.
SAD-AFAG regional coordinator Haluk Camuşcuoğlu, veterinarian Fulya Kaya Masssizzo and Turgutreis Coast Guard teams went to Çatal Ada and collected the remains of the seal.
The first examination revealed that the skinned seal died a week ago. There were ventral cuts and its ribs were broken. Camuşcuoğlu said further examination and an autopsy at the Yalıkavak clinic would show how it died. Meanwhile, fishermen at the Turgutreis Port were outraged by the incident. "Our region is already under siege from the sea and the land in a way that spoils natural life here," said Mustafa Akalan, a 52-year-old fisherman for 35 years.
"We were running across three or four Mediterranean seals 20 years ago," he said. "But today this does not happen."
Autopsy will be performed
"For years we have been conducting research on the Mediterranean seal in Turkey," said a SAD-AFAG coordinator. "All the data in hand shows that almost every year three or four babies are born and one or two die."
But still, Kıraç said this was the first time they had seen that type of death.
"A Mediterranean seal in Turkey was killed or died in this way for the first time," he said. Mediterranean seals are facing extinction and their natural environment is being restricted every day, said Kıraç.
"The Mediterranean seal lives in the sea, seacoast and on land," said Kıraç. "The most important problem for them is the destruction of their natural living environment due to hotels, housing and road construction. So the areas they live in are no longer natural," he said.
"Their habitats should be free of concrete blocks. With many international treaties it signed, Turkey promised to protect those animals and their habitats of seas and shores," he added. "But not only with laws or international treaties, protecting them with our conscience, human values is the best way. However, we only watch when our seas and shores are destroyed because we do not know our natural values exactly."
Kıraç said seals are scared of people and have been forced to leave their habitat. "When people rush into natural areas, seals are scared away and leave their turf," he said. "Our research reveals that we have 90 or 100 seals at the most. And we are upset at seeing one of them killed or dying this way," he said.