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. POMOCA has been putting funding into this project since 2016, supporting 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

It’s been another busy and active year for FANC who have continued with their dedicated work to protect the Saimaa seal.

Unfortunately, this spring and summer saw a record-breaking number of dangerous fish traps on Lake Saimaa. This highlights the importance of FANC’s work to promote seal-safe fish traps and, to this end, FANC have continued with a variety of workshops and events again this year. FANC’s dedicated work has resulted in some 2000 fishers having received a seal-safe fish trap since this work began in 2008.

Additionally, FANC continues to participate in legislative work and the Saimaa ringed seal working committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is working to find a way to balance the protection of the Saimaa ringed seal with fishing on Lake Saimaa.

A variety of other activities and events have been carried out by FANC, here are just a few:

– FANC’s Saimaa ringed seal coordinator, Kaarina Tiainen participated on a video project about seals. The video focuses on how and what we can learn from them and can be seen here.
– A week-long Saimaa ringed seal themed children’s camp. On the week-long camp, crafting seal-themed projects, canoeing, sleeping in tents and swimming in the lake were popular activities.
– Representatives of the FANC held an information stand at a family and culture oriented public event organized at the Lappeenranta harbour.
– The ”Harbour Lights” event attracted some 100 people to the FANC tent to learn about the Saimaa ringed seal, its protection, and the seal-safe ”Saimaa” fish trap. At the tent, the representatives of the FANC also celebrated the Finnish Nature Day.
– The Saimaa ringed seal pups are born on or around February 26. To celebrate the newborn pups, FANC organized a Seal Pup’s Birthday event. The event was mainly aimed at children and families. The event took place in the Nature and Science Center Saimaarium in Lappeenranta, with some 200 people attending.

Thanks to POMOCA for its continued support of this project.

Image: Ringed seal. Image credit: Eero Korhola