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

For the 6th year running POMOCA have supported the ongoing, dedicated work of FANC and its efforts in conserving the Saimaa ringed seal.

The project continues with its actions on breeding habitat restoration (man-made snow drifts and artificial nests), campaigns for use of seal-safe fishing gear (170 were given out this year), education for children and media work. Many lessons were held online for the first time – due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A major educational event, titled “The Biggest School Trip in Finland” was undertaken with one class of children aboard ship, and 75 classes signed up to participate through a live stream to their classrooms. On 19 May some 2,000 participants watched the event. The recording is available of the FANC South Savo YouTube channel here.

Various other events were carried out over the course of the year, including a children’s seal camp, participation in a traditional event in Mikkeli, and nature days promoting the project.

The annual census saw the team heading out on the ice in April with kick sleds and survival suits (which are must!). Some 50 kilometres of shoreline were explored in two days, and a few resting nests and breathing holes were found. This spring didn’t, however, find evidence of pups born in the area. This is quite normal, since the seals do not give birth every year, but instead have so-called intermediate years every few years.

FANC also continues to actively participate in legislative work essential to promoting the protection of the Saimaa ringed seal. FANC has a representative on The Saimaa ringed seal working committee of the Ministry of the Environment which is currently composing a strategy and actions for the protection of the seal.

Since September 2020, FANC has been a partner in the Our Saimaa seal LIFE project, which is headed by Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland. The project will run until 2025 and has an amazing total budget of €7.1 million, having received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. More information can be found here (in Finnish).

POMOCA will be funding this project again for another year so watch this space for future updates!

Image: Ringed Seal. Image credit: Ossi Kokki