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. Today the critically endangered population is around 320, and threatened by 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

A number of activities were continued in 2016 including:
– building nest sites for the seals at the southern shores of the seals’ habitat by ploughing snow into piles
– recruiting and training ringed seal ambassadors to visit local schools
– campaigning for the use of the right design of fish trap to protect against accidental catching and drowning of seal pups.  Over 14,000 special stoppers for traps have been distributed free of charge to recreational fishermen to make them safe for seals.  Also work campaigning against other types of fishing nets which are dangerous to seals
– a summer ringed seal environmental camps for children
– a Ringed Seal exhibition and other public events
– a meeting with Finland’s agriculture and environment cabinet minister
– campaigning to increase the protection of other important seal habitats

Image: Ringed Seal. Image credit: Eero Korhola