The National Marine Park of Alonnisos in the Northern Sporades is a haven for sea creatures, including one of Greece’s most precious gems, the Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus).
Founded in 1992 and comprised of the island of Alonnisos, six smaller islands, and almost two dozen islets, the park is currently the largest protected marine area in Europe. Headquartered on Alonnisos is the NGO MOm, the Helenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal, which celebrated its 25th year anniversary in 2013. With the help of funding and donations, a local health center has also been established especially for the protection and rehabilitation of wounded or orphaned seals.
Once living in abundance and held sacred by Ancient Greeks, the Mediterranean Monk Seal is today considered the most endangered seal species on the planet. The largest population, which exists in the Northern Sporades, consists of about just 300 individuals. Limited human access, and geographic isolation of small islands and underwater caves make the area an ideal habitat for the Monk Seal and other threatened species in the Mediterranean, including the Greek striped dolphin and some small whale species.
The six protected islands in the area include Kyra Panagia, Gioura, Peristeri, Psathoura, Skantzoura, and Piperi. The island of Piperi and surrounding waters are highly-protected, as fishing, and unauthorized approach to the area by boat are prohibited.
Although tourist interaction with the shy Monk seal is very limited, visitors to the island of Alonnisos can learn more about the seal, other special sea creatures, and the great natural surrounding habitat through videos and displays at MOm’s offices at the port of Alonnisos. For more information about MOm and the Mediterranean Monk Seal, visit mom.gr.