The Baltic Sea Seal & Cormorant TNC project was heard at the HELCOM Workshop of Seal and Fisheries Interaction in Copenhagen on June 27, 2019
At the workshop the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project presented a list of researchers’ recommendations for the main solutions and mitigation methods to decrease seal-fishery conflict in the Baltic Sea region and the preliminary results of the large interview study focusing on Baltic seal and cormorant impacts on small-scale fisheries.
The Baltic Sea grey seal population has grown unrestrictedly to about 50 000 individuals. It now poses a serious threat to coastal commercial fishing and thus to the self-sufficiency in food production. In addition to the direct impact on fisheries (catch losses and damaged gear), the current seals’ consumption of fish affects the fish populations.
“The grey seals alone eat about 100 million kilos of fish every year, which is about twice the amount that the coastal fisheries take. Damage mitigation measures such as seal-safe gears and scaring devices have been developed and taken in use by the fishers, but these measures have not solved the problem”, says Esko Taanila, Project Manager Esko Taanila, administrator of the Baltic Sea Seal & Cormorant Project.
According to the researchers’ recommendations list, there is an urgent need to start managing seal populations by hunting to reduce the population increase in order to secure the ecosystem in the Baltic Sea and our use of the Baltic Sea as an important source of food. A more intensive hunt is limited by the EU ban on the trade of seal products, preventing the use of seals as a positive resource and making use of seal products. A joint demand from the Baltic states to the EU commission to reduce the restrictions is necessary.
The 2006 HELCOM seal recommendations goal for Baltic seal populations is a population size that increases until it reaches a carrying capacity and starts to limit itself. However, this recommendation does not account for the Habitats Directive’s objective to promote the maintenance of biodiversity while also accounting for economic, social, cultural, and regional requirements. The Project and the researchers suggest that these aspects proposed by the Habitats Directive should also be taken into account in the HELCOM seal recommendation. The need to amend the HELCOM seal recommendation was also acknowledged in the workshop’s final discussions.
“It’s vitally important to secure the future of small-scale coastal commercial fisheries and maintain the self-sufficiency of the Baltic Sea”, says Project Manager Esko Taanila.
The final report of the Baltic fishermen interview study will be carried out in late autumn 2019. The report will provide information about seal- and cormorant-caused damages, such as economic losses, experienced by the Baltic Sea commercial fishermen.
For more information, please visit balticfisheries.com
The Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project was established by fourteen FLAG (Fishing Local Action Group) units from Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Germany to investigate the economic and social impacts of increasing seal and cormorant populations on Baltic small-scale coastal fisheries. The project aims to find and to develop sustainable marine resources management solutions to ensure the future of small-scale fisheries in the Baltic Sea area.