Helping Saimaa Ringed Seal
The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) is one of the rarest seals in the world and can only be found in Lake Saimaa, Finland. Active Protection work started in 1979 by WWF Finland.
Since that the Saimaa ringed seal population has increased to approximately 320 animals. WWF Finland’s aim is to increase the amount of the Saimaa ringed seal to 400 individuals by 2025.
Thanks to the active protection work started by WWF in 1979, the Saimaa ringed seal population has increased to approximately 320 animals. Currently, Saimaa ringed seals are threatened especially by drowning in fishnets, climate change and the increasing human population on lake shores.
Protection work of the Saimaa ringed seal includes seal-friendly zoning, net fishing bans in the important seal areas, seal-friendly fishing equipment, avoidance of disturbing seals especially during the nesting season, promotion of seal conservation research and support for adaptation to climate change.
WHAT WWF FINLAND DOES
Conservation research of the Saimaa ringed seal was begun in a specialist working group founded by WWF Finland towards the end of the 1970s. Today, WWF Finland still supports research that seeks means to learn more about the seal’s life and to protect it.
WWF Finland helps the Saimaa ringed seal to adapt to low-snow winters by, for instance, funding a project by the University of Eastern Finland that looks into the suitability of man-made snowdrifts as a future means of seal protection. In late winter 2014, man-made snowdrifts were widely used for the first time. Due to the poor situation, no natural snowdrifts formed on Saimaa and more than 240 man-made snowdrifts were built to serve as nest-building places. Up to about 90% of them were used by seals in nesting.
WWF Finland’s specialists are members in official seal protection working groups and committees. WWF Finland monitors the implementation of the proposals and request improvements, when necessary.
WWF Finland presents protection-related demands and initiatives to decision-makers and communicate about the topic in the media.
In the spring 2011, WWF Finland’s key demand was realised when the spring-time net fishing ban in the most important Saimaa ringed seal nesting areas was changed from voluntary to absolute through a decree.
Working in the field
• WWF Finland is responsible for the census of the seal population in southern Saimaa.
• When necessary, WWF Finland’s volunteers participate in building man-made snowdrifts during snowless winters.
• WWF Finland educates permanent and free-time residents of the Saimaa region about seal protection and the net fishing ban. Each year, WWF Finland also declares a period of nesting peace for the Saimaa ringed seal, together with local residents.
• WWF Finland has created a digital map with which people in the Saimaa region can review currently valid restrictions applicable to fishing nets and other fishing equipment that are dangerous for the Saimaa ringed seal.
• WWF Finland gives an “Olen norpan ystävä” (I am a friend of seals) diploma to everyone who voluntarily abandons net fishing on Saimaa.
• WWF Finland’s oil spill response teams are ready to help in case of an oil spill.
Source: WWF-Finland 7.7.2016.