What will it take to save the endangered Saimaa ringed seal? A new documentary film presents the hard work and people who are dedicated to protecting the Saimaa ringed seal

If the Saimaa ringed seal cannot be saved in Lake Saimaa, it will disappear from the entire world. The brand-new documentary Operaatio norppa (Operation Ringed Seal) focuses on the determined and promising work being done to protect the Saimaa ringed seal. At the same time, the film presents the uniquely beautiful nature of Lake Saimaa. The documentary film produced by DocArt is now available in YLE Areena, and it will be broadcast on YLE TV1 in the Avara Nature programme slot at 18:40 on Saturday 16 December 2023. A rerun will be shown at 8:00 on 17 December 2023.  

Saimaa ringed seal lolling on a rock at a lake.

The seal is facing threats, but hard work is a source of hope 

There are two people with kicksleds on the ice, standing still.Filming of this documentary film lasted for three years. It highlights the work being done by Saimaa ringed seal conservation experts in a very concrete way. Although the work is based on expertise, it also includes practical, comical and touching situations. 

The main threats to the Saimaa ringed seal at this time are fishing nets and climate change. Amendments to legislation could extent the net fishing ban through July. Influencing global warming is a slower process, but it is still possible and necessary to help the seals.  

Under the shadow of these threats, Saimaa ringed seal conservation experts – researchers and people in the field – are working hard on behalf of the seals. The work done so far shows that the conservation measures are having an impact. More than 300 pups have already been born in man-made snow drifts built under the direction of Metsähallitus, which offer shelter during milder winters.  

New methods will be needed if snow and ice do not cover the shores of Lake Saimaa in the future. These include artificial nest boxes, which have to be placed in the right locations and be appealing to the seals. These solutions are presented in the film.  

In addition, a strong belief in the future is essential to preserving the species and preventing biodiversity loss. 

“I would like everyone to remember that we do not own nature. All the species that disappear from nature will be gone forever. Although we don’t know what the future holds, everything that we can preserve for 10 years or until the next generation can always be preserved for longer,” says Miina Auttila, Senior Specialist in Nature Conservation at Metsähallitus.   

Petteri Saario, scriptwriter and director of the documentary film, confirms the same message: 

“In today’s world, most of the news we hear about nature is quite sad. Even in Finland, one in every nine species is at risk of disappearing from our nature. This is one reason why the Operation Ringed Seal story is a hopeful and important one. The fact that the population of Finland's only indigenous mammal has increased from 200 to nearly 500 individuals is positive news. Nature conservationists are the true heroes of our time.”  

Saimaa ringed seal conservation work  

Metsähallitus is responsible for conservation work to protect the Saimaa ringed seal, but this involves extensive cooperation between various actors. One key partner is the University of Eastern Finland, and the work is made possible by hundreds of volunteers from the shores of Lake Saimaa, WWF, and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. Up-to-date information on the conservation status of the Saimaa ringed seal is available online at: www.metsa.fi/norppatilanne (in Finnish). Funding for the film was received from the EU via the Our Saimaa Seal LIFE project. 

More information

Emblems of Our Saimaa Seal Life, European union and Natura 2000.

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