Wednesday. 08.02.2023

Finns mobilize to save ringed seals

The recent discovery of 4 dead pups, trapped in fishing nets, has allowed to gather 50,000 signatures in 3 days for a total ban of these fishing gears. Now, Parliament must consider the proposal.

A ringed seal on the snow. Photo: Ismo Marttinen/WWF.

The Finns have once again demonstrated their ability to mobilize when it comes to defending one of their main riches: nature and the species that inhabit it.

The recent death of 4 ringed seal (saimaannorppa) pups due to the use of fishing nets has led to an unprecedented citizen mobilization in defense of this endangered species, which nowadays only live in Lake Saimaa (east of the country) and of which only a few hundred individuals remain alive.

According to the Finnish broadcasting company (YLE), a citizen initiative for a total ban on fishing nets in the habitats used by the Saimaannorppa has gathered more than 50,000 certified signatures in just three days. And now this limit has been exceeded, Parliament must take the proposal into account.

The initiative calls for a year-round ban on the use of fishing nets in order to protect the ringed seals. Currently, the use of these fishing gears is partially banned in the area, from mid-April to the end of June. Since the ban was lifted one week ago, four deaths of seals pups have been reported.

Isolated since the glacial period

The Saimaa ringed seal is also one of the few freshwater-living seals. The seal remained isolated in Lake Saimaa about 8,000 years ago, when the connection with the Baltic Sea after the glacial period broke down. Since then, the Saimaa ringed seals have lived in complete isolation from other ringed seals.

 According to WWF Finland, in the 1980s it was estimated that only 120 individuals remained and the seal was close to extinction. Thanks to conservation and research work, the number of individuals has grown slowly and in 2018 the number of seals is estimated to be 380-400.

Biologists estimate that 80-90 pups of the seal are born in the Saimaa lake region per year, though as many as 60 young seals do not get to adulthood. 

The Finnish Forest Administration (Metsähallitus) accomplish every year a nest counting in order to assess the number of seal pups. Last spring 67 new pups were detected.

Finns mobilize to save ringed seals