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 by bounty hunting until the 1940s and again during the 1960s due to the use of fishing nets made from nylon. The endangered population is around 380-400 (2018 figure), and threatened by the types of nets and traps used by recreational fishermen, lakeshore building narrowing habitat and climate change. For the third year in a row, POMOCA have chosen to support this project to support the continuation of 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

Sad news unfortunately started off the funding of this year’s project, with the death of five seal pups in fishing nets. This was later compounded by the very poor breeding season, with only 32 pups reportedly born. However, this highlights how important FANC’s conservation efforts are for the rare Saimaa ringed seal: its work to replace fishing nets with seal-safe fish traps and build artificial nests, both directly address these issues. FANC’s long-term goal continues to be the banning of all fishing nets on Lake Saimaa all year round. Indeed, FANC have enabled a variety of successful actions this year, including:
– workshops on building seal-safe fish traps, reaching approximately 900 people;
– 250 seal-safe fish traps were handed out to fishermen at ‘Replace Fishing Nets with Seal-safe Fish Traps events;
– recycled 100kg of fishing nets collected from fishermen in exchange for seal safe fish traps. The nets are given to a Finnish company called ‘the other danish guy’ which manufactures men’s underwear from the nets;
– collaborated with Russia through a seminar, education, and a newly launched project called ‘Towards Sustainable Coexistence of Seals and Humans (CoExist)’;
– organised a seal themed camp for children;
– participated in the Savonlinna International Nature Film Festival;
– helped out at a pop-up care center on the shore of Lake Saimaa where a seal pup was rescued, nursed back to health, taught to eat fish, and subsequently released back into the wild. It is hoped that further care centers will be established in different parts of Lake Saimaa;
– FANC presented their work at the Finnish Forest Museum Lusto on Finnish Nature Day;
– FANC continued with their media presence to keep seal conservation in the minds of all.

POMOCA will continue to fund this project for the 5th year running so watch out for future updates!

Image: Building a den. Image credit: Mr Tapio Kujala