The annual springtime ban on fishing with nets on Lake Saimaa in southeast Finland ended on Monday.
Saimaa is the largest of Finland’s approximately 180,000 lakes and is home to one of the world’s most endangered and rarest subspecies, the Saimaa ringed seals.
In the early 1980s, the seal population fell to an alarmingly low level of 100-150, but conservation efforts and stricter regulations on fishing nets have helped the endangered mammals to replenish to a current estimated population of 400. However, many seals still die every year after becoming entangled in fishing nets, according to the environmental organisation WWF Finland.
Fishing nets the biggest threat
The group says fishing nets pose the single most significant threat to the ringed seals species, and have made appeals to residents of the Saimaa region to do their utmost to ensure that no seals will die in fishing nets this year.
The practice of placing nets in the lake to catch fish is banned every year between April 15 and June 30 in the Saimaa lake region, particularly in order to protect the newly-born seal pups that are born in February and March.
Climate change also presents a further threat to the Saimaa ringed seals, as warmer winters with less snowfall lead to the species relying on human help to find places to build dens, according to WWF.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: From the Arctic to Atlantic, a photographer documents seal hunting in Canada, Eye on the Arctic
Finland: Thin ice hampers survey of rare seal dens in southeast Finland, Yle News
Norway: Arctic fox’s rapid journey from Svalbard to Northern Canada stuns researchers, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Poachers suspected behind dwindling wolf numbers in Sweden, Radio Sweden
United States: Unique freshwater Alaska seals require special conservation efforts, study finds, CBC News