Monk seal project: SAD-AFAG

Formed from a university club

SAD-AFAG (The Underwater Research Society - Mediterranean Seal Research Group) is a Turkish conservation organization that has been working with fishermen since 1991 to protect the monk seal and at the same time, help artisanal fishermen. Today recognized as a leader in monk seal research and conservation, it's hard to believe it all started with a group of university students who loved diving.

Engineers and economists turned into conservationists
In 1986, a group of students and professors with a passion for diving formed the Sub Aqua Club at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. As part of this, the Mediterranean Seal Research Group (AFAG) was established in 1987. In 1994, the Underwater Research Society (SAD) was formed to serve as an umbrella organization for different specialist groups, including AFAG.

Today SAD-AFAG is a non-government organization. Many of the original club members have continued to work on marine issues and conservation - and never worked in the field in which they trained at university!

Even while a university club, AFAG was working on monk seal conservation. For example, in 1991 the group organized the first-ever Turkish government national committee for monk seals in cooperation with the Turkish Environment Ministry. The meeting brought together government and academics and created a strategy for the protection of the species.

Long association with WWF
AFAG and WWF first met during the 1991 national committee meeting for monk seals. Since then, WWF has supported various activities carried out by SAD-AFAG. The latest support comes from WWF's Mediterranean Programme through an EU-funded project. This funding is part of the EU's Short and Medium-term Priority Environmental Action Programme (SMAP), which was established to protect the Mediterranean environment.

Four offices
SAD-AFAG currently works from four offices: the Ankara Coordination Office, as well as three Project Offices, in Fo├ža, Karaburun, and Bozyazi.

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