Tahsin Ceylan, the head of the environmental board of the TSFF, gave the example of the Mediterranean monk seal, the number of which, he said, fell to from 500 in the 1980s to 40 today.
“I am very saddened. I could have seen them, but many of the species will be seen by our children only in photographs,” the longtime diver said.
Ceylan, also a three-star diving instructor and underwater photographer, made the comments on June 5, World Environment Day.
Turkey is considered a natural haven and home to Mediterranean monk seals, which are in danger of extinction. Mediterranean monk seals total about 200-300 in the world. Just about 40-50 of them live only on the coastline of Turkey.
“As an underwater photographer, I witness the painful situation that is happening in our seas day-by-day, and many species are vanishing away in front of my eyes. I am taking a dive more than 300 times per year,” said Ceylan.
“Consciously or unconsciously, there is a massacre being done by humans in our seas. We are destroying them,” he said.
The number of threatened species on the IUCN Red List, which is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global status of plant and animal species, is gradually increasing in Turkey, according to Ceylan.
“According to this ‘Red List,’ there are 364 species and subspecies in Turkey which face an extinction risk on a global scale. From the grouper to the sea turtle, these endangered species live in hundreds in our seas,” said Ceylan.
The biological richness is also important for Turkey’s scuba diving tourism, said Ceylan.
“The number of licensed divers in Turkey is 150,000, but in Austria, which is not surrounded by any seas, this number is 750,000. Therefore, the scuba diving tourism is an important area in the world,” he said.
“People are not coming to our seas to take a shower; they are coming to see different species. For tourism, biological diversity is utmost important. People want to come to [the district of] Kaş [in the Mediterranean province of Antalya] and see grouper, but we have no groupers,” he said.
By Rıza Özel – ANKARA
HURRIYET DAILY NEWS