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Highly endangered Saimaa ringed seal pup found dead in fishing net

There was a slight rise in population numbers of the very rare animals last year.

Muutaman viikon ikäinen kuutti köllöttelee jäällä.
File photo of a Saimaa ringed seal pup (unrelated to the story). Image: Timo Seppäläinen
Yle News

A highly endangered young Saimaa ringed seal pup has been found dead in a fishing net in the Pihlajavesi lake in Savonlinna, Central Finland.

A fisher reported finding the pup's remains in the net to the state-owned wildlife and forestry management firm Metsähallitus on Monday.

The rare seal was found caught in a pike-perch fishing net. The animal weighed around 29 kg and measured 90 cm in length and was less than a year old, according to Metsähallitus.

The net that trapped the rare mammal was laid out in the middle of Pihlajavesi, measuring about 12 metres deep. These types of fishing nets are banned from use between April and July in an effort to reduce Saimaa seal fatalities.

Nature conservation special expert at Metsähallitus, Jouni Koskela, said these types of incidents were "very rare" when the ban is not in effect.

Metsähallitus recorded the deaths of three Saimaa ringed seals last year, and two other fatalities in 2021.

Regulating agency the Finnish Food Safety Authority is to perform an autopsy on the seal pup that was found on Monday.

In late November of last year, Metsähallitus noted a slight uptick in the Saimaa ringed seal population.

Growth in the population has been slow. When the Saimaa seal was declared a protected species 40 years ago there were only about 100 of the animals living in Lake Saimaa. Roughly speaking, it has taken four decades for their numbers to quadruple.

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