A diverse working group considered reconciling fishing and the protection of the highly endangered Saimaa ringed seal.
Saimaannorpan the working group on the coordination of conservation and fisheries proposes new fishing restricted areas on the basis of ringed nests known to Saimaa. The working group, which disagreed with the duration of the net fishing ban, could not reach an agreement and did not make a direct presentation on it at all. The contentious issue has been, among other things, the extension of the ban until July.
The Saimaa Ringed Seal and Fisheries Working Group has listed measures to prevent the Saimaa ringed seal from falling into the traps and dying. In addition, the working group assesses how well fishing restrictions have supported the protection of the ringed seal. The working group handed over its final report Minister of Agriculture and Forestry To Jari Lepä (Central) Thursday.
The working group’s report serves as the basis for a new regulation on Saimaa fishing restrictions, which is being prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The new regulation is due to enter into force in April.
Fishing restrictions have, according to the report, helped to improve the Saimaa ringed seal population, which has grown from around 240 individuals to 420-430 individuals in the 21st century. The intermediate goal of the conservation strategy has been to increase the population to 400 ringed seals by 2025. This goal was achieved in 2019, six years ahead of schedule.
However, the Saimaa ringed seal is still a very endangered species, which means that it is important to continue conservation work, the report emphasizes. The main goal of the working group’s proposals is to secure the growth of the Saimaa ringed seal population in accordance with the conservation strategy.
Finland is responsible for the survival of the rare seal, as Saimaa ringed seal is only present in Saimaa.
To the fishing restricted area the working group proposes an extension based on known Saimaa ringed seal nests.
The current 2,770 square kilometers of regulation and contract area would be expanded to a single area of approximately 3,000 square kilometers.
In the future, the restrictions would also extend to the southern parts of Puruvesi, Rantasalmi and Joroinen Haapaselä, between Luonteri and Lietvesi to Hepovirta, Kuparonvirta and Linnunpäänselä, and to the southern parts of Paasselä.
Net fishing has been completely banned in the Saimaa fishing restriction area from mid-April to the end of June. However, the ban has not applied to vendace nets with a spacing of less than 22 mm.
The Working Party does not propose any changes to these restrictions. The working group was so divided that it did not take a direct position on the duration of the network ban, for example.
Only an impact assessment was made on the length of the ban to support political decision-making.
One of the report’s proposals for action is to continue to develop fishing gear to be safe. The report also proposes other research and study projects and the development of information and monitoring. An increase in the level of compensation for protection is also proposed.
Saimaa is not only a ringed seal area but also important for both commercial and recreational fishing.
The Saimaa region produces one third of the value of the catch of commercial fishing in Finnish inland waters. Some fish species, such as pike, are caught in cold water and in winter only with nets.
There are an estimated 49,000 recreational fishermen in Saimaa. Half of the catch is taken with different nets. According to the report, there is no alternative gear for vendace recreational fishing.
Dispute the working group was, above all, about net fishing – its duration and the authorization of vendace nets during the ban.
According to environmental organizations, the protection of the Saimaa ringed seal requires more extensive fishing restrictions, as climate change poses a growing threat to the growth of the ringed seal.
Among other things, WWF has called for action to extend the net fishing ban until July and to ban vendace nets. The ringed seal will also drown in vendace nets and more in late summer.
WWF Program Manager Petteri Tolvanen recalls that the working group on fishing restrictions stated in its report five years ago that the fishing ban should be reviewed if vendace nets are found to cause mortality.
“It simply came to our notice then. In five years, there has been clear evidence that the vendace net is dangerous. About a quarter of all reported ringed seal deaths have occurred in vendace nets. The matter must now be taken up again, and vendace nets must also be banned during the net fishing ban, ”says Tolvanen.
It has been thought in the past that because vendace nets have a small mesh size, they would not be as dangerous to a ringed seal as big-meshed fish nets.
Also read: Saimaannorpan Kuutti dies in vendace nets, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation considers net fishing restrictions insufficient
Environmental organizations are also calling for the net fishing ban to be extended until July.
“The net fishing ban will work well until the end of June, which shows that the fishing restrictions are working. However, cyber mortality has moved sharply to July, ”says Tolvanen.
WWF, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, the Saimaa Ringed Club and the University of Eastern Finland’s Saimaa Ringed Research dissenting opinion report of the working group.
Government the previous regulation on fishing restrictions in Saimaa came into force in April 2016, and is valid until April 2021. The government will issue a new regulation on fishing restrictions during the spring, before the beginning of April.
Before the Government discusses it, the draft regulation is submitted for opinion. The final report of the working group will serve as a basis for the preparation of the regulation.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä considers the current fishing restrictions to be sufficient. According to him, the ministry does not intend to propose an extension of the net fishing season to July.
“We want to support the growth of the Saimaa ringed seal and preserve this rare species as part of Finnish nature. At the same time, it is important to remember that Saimaa is one of the most important lake areas for Finnish fishing. The current fishing restrictions have secured the growth of the Saimaa ringed seal population, ie both the ringed seal and the fishery will continue to fit in Saimaa. We are proposing to expand the fishing restriction area in accordance with the working group’s proposal, but the restriction period will remain the same, as the ringed seal population will grow in accordance with the conservation strategy, ”says Leppä. in the bulletin.
Last winter was awkward for the Saimaa ringed seal. Lake Saimaa froze late, and the ice remained thin in much of Lake Saimaa. There was not enough snow for nesting needs. This hampered both nesting and nest counting, as not all nest sites were found.
Read more: Metsähallitus: The exact size of the Saimaa ringed seal population could not be estimated due to the mild and mild winter
However, the ringed seal population has slowly recovered in recent decades. Today, there are an estimated 420-430 Saimaa ringed seal.
Protective measures have worked. The lowest number of seals was at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, when 150–180 seals swam in Saimaa.
However, the threat of the extinction of the Saimaa ringed seal has not yet subsided. The ringed seal is threatened by, among other things, man-made disturbances and deaths from fishing gear. In the future, especially intensifying climate change will be a danger to the ringed seal, as its nesting is completely dependent on snow and ice.
A big threat to the Saimaa ringed seal is also that the population is small and scattered. The genetic variation of the species is small, which impairs its ability to respond to a rapidly changing environment.