Authorities on Samos are looking for the person responsible for shooting a protected Mediterranean monk seal whose body washed up on a beach earlier this month.
The discovery of the bullet-riddled seal was particularly distressing to the residents of the southeastern Aegean island, as it is possible that it was a female Monachus monachus they had named Argyro, which often swam around in the sea off public beaches and was even seen sunning itself on a lounger.
“Whichever seal it is, this was a abhorrent criminal act. We could not identify the seal because the skin was badly damaged,” says Thodoris Tsimbidis, head of the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, whose researchers discovered the body.
“The seal bore signs of multiple shots from a hunting rifle on its back, possibly delivered as it was trying to get away. It also had a wound caused by a sharp object that went through the right side of its back all the way to the stomach,” the institute said in a statement.
“The bodies are often punctured so that they sink and the crime goes undiscovered,” explains Tsimbidis, referring to similar incidents in the past.
“There’s a small minority of fishermen who kill seals and turtles, and also tend to use very destructive fishing methods, causing a lot of damage to fish populations,” says Tsimbidis. “The issue is that the perpetrators are never brought to justice even though everyone knows who they are.”
Tsimbidis stresses that the small number of seals in the area cannot be held accountable for dwindling fish stocks, as some fishermen believe.
“Fishermen, however, should be compensated when seals are responsible for them losing income. The money that goes into seal protection programs should not be spent on raising awareness among Athenians, but on the effects they have on island communities,” says the head of Archipelagos.