The Saimaa ringed seal lair counts in April 2018 revealed 78 pups, 4 of which were dead. Most of the 100 people who took part in the counts were local volunteers.
According to Conservation Biologist Jouni Koskela from Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland, the past winter was characterised by a weak ice situation. After the ice formed it was covered by a layer of snow, which led to uneven freezing. The poor ice conditions meant that the lairs had to be checked over a short period of time – just one week instead of the normal two weeks.
A more precise count of the pups will be obtained later in May when divers can access the lairs. The poor lair counting conditions led to many uncertain observations. Divers will search the nests for placentas, which prove that a pup was born at the site.
This year, two pups were born outside the springtime restriction areas on net fishing – in Puruvesi and Paasselkä. In order to ensure that these pups survive their first months, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment will try to reach an agreement on net fishing restrictions with the fishery partnerships.
Springtime fishing with nets is limited to an area of 2,680 km² in the seals´ habitat in Saimaa. The best way to ensure the recovery of this highly endangered species is to prevent Saimaa seal deaths in fishing nets.
"The birth of the pups is a sign that protection is producing results and the Saimaa ringed seal can return to its former habitats," says Senior Advisor Tero Sipilä.
The Saimaa ringed seal is one of the most endangered and rarest seals in the world. There are slightly under 400 Saimaa seals in the world, and they all live in Lake Saimaa. Due to land uplift after the Ice Age, the Saimaa seal became isolated from other ringed seal subspecies more than 9,000 years ago. The Saimaa seal is Finland's only endemic mammal.