Saimaa ringed seal extinction likely without massive conservation measures

HELSINGIN SANOMAT

The Saimaa ringed seal is very likely to become extinct if measures to preserve the species are not upgraded considerably, says Metsähallitus, the state institution concerned with regulating natural resources. The ringed seal population in the Saimaa waterway in the southeast of Finland has been calculated at 260, down from 280 a few years ago. The danger of extinction has been noticed around the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has changed the classification of the seal as extremely endangered, and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has demanded that Finland enact more efficient measures to protect the species. The negative prognosis for the Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) is the result of a combination of factors: warmer winters, drownings of seals caught in fishnets and traps, and the dispersed nature of the seals themselves. If winters lack snow, young seals born in the winter often cannot survive through the spring, and then fishnets pose a hazard. In addition, the small population is spread out over such a wide area, that the death of a single fertile female can be catastrophic. The seals were once mainly seen as a nuisance, and were hunted just to get rid of them. That attitude has not completely gone away. “At one hearing a man from Rantasalmi said, I believe, that they still have dry gunpowder”, says fisheries consultant Risto Tarikka of the Finnish Federation for Recreational Fishing. Tarikka worked with a working group which proposed a mandatory extension of restrictions on net fishing from the present 600 square kilometres to 1,500, if such a move is not achieved voluntarily. Fishermen’s associations take a different view. “Voluntary agreements for protection are the sustainable way, and one which brings results”, says Markku Myllylä of the Federation of Finnish Fisheries Associations. “If and when restrictions are well founded, they must be suitable for us as well”, says Ilkka Mäkelä, executive director of the Finnish Federation for Recreational Fishing.

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Filed under animals, biodiversity, conservation, endangered, environment, environmentalism, extinction, nature, wildlife, zoology

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