Conservation of Ringed Seals, Lake Saimaa, Finland

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) is the largest non-governmental organization for environmental protection and nature conservation in Finland. Its purpose is to protect the environment, promote nature conservation, preserve cultural heritage, and promote active citizenship and environmental awareness.

The Saimaa ringed seal is a sub species of the ringed seal and was isolated from the Baltic Sea in Lake Saimaa, Finland around 8,000 years ago. The population was reduced drastically at the end of the 19th Century due to bounty hunting and again during the 1960s due to the use of fishing nets made from nylon. The endangered population is around 360 (2016 figure), and threatened by the types of nets and traps used by recreational fishermen, increased tourism and climate change. This project will continue the work of FANC with recreational fishermen, tourism providers and local communities to ensure the survival and protection of the Saimaa ringed seal into the future.

The Update

Thanks to the dedicated conservation efforts, the Saimaa ringed seal population has gradually risen in recent years. However, the population is still far from viable and work to help conserve this rare seal continues to be vital.
In the 2018 season FANC has:
– Constructed seven artificial snow drifts, six of which were used; one as a birth lair. One lair was also found in a natural snow drift. A total of 86 pups were counted in the entire Saimaa region this season;
– Supported a total of 27 volunteers involved in the snow drift constructions and seal counting;
– Carried out four ‘seal safe fish trap’ public workshops and a further 6 smaller workshops. Approximately 100 volunteers participated in these workshops and made 100 seal safe traps for the campaign; and
– In July FANC organised the ‘Seal Safe Fish Trap Festival’ for local people beside Lake Saimaa, demonstrating how to use the fish trap.

EOCA Member POMOCA is funding this vital project again next year so watch this space for further updates!

Image: Baby Seal. Image credit: Ossi Kokki