A citizens’ initiative calling for a total ban on fishing nets in habitats used by the endangered Saimaa ringed seal has gathered more than 50,000 certified signatures in just three days. Having met that threshold, the proposal must now be considered by the Finnish Parliament.
The initiative was set up on Wednesday and proposes a year-round ban on the use of fishing nets in a bid to protect the rare seals, which are unique to the Saimaa lake system.
The ringed seal population dropped to as few as 100 a few decades ago, but thanks to conservation efforts – including the springtime ban on fishing nets – their numbers have rebounded to an estimated 400.
Some 80-90 pups are born in the Saimaa lake region every year but the biologists estimate that as many as 60 young seals die annually.
This past spring forest management agency Metsähallitus counted a total of 67 live pups, which is fewer than in recent years, but weak ice conditions on the lake prevented a complete population assessment.
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