A record high number of Saimaa ringed seal pups have been born this year, according to a count organised by Finland's state-owned wildlife agency Metsähallitus.
A total of 100 pups of the highly-endangered seal species were counted during the agency's census, the highest yearly figure since Metsähallitus began recording Saimaa seal births.
"One hundred pups is a ten out of ten result. This record-breaking birth rate can be explained by females being in healthy condition and the increase in individuals surviving to reproductive age," nature conservation specialist Miina Auttila wrote in a Metsähallitus press release.
The ringed seal population was especially higher in the Pihlajavesi area of the Saimaa lake region, where Metsähallitus has previously noted that the numbers were growing steadily in recent years.
Ismo Marttinen, a regional manager with the Finnish branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said however that the ringed seals are increasingly moving outside areas under strict no-fishing regulations. As a result, they are at greater risk of being killed by fishing equipment, such as nets.
Marttinen added that he hopes people fishing in the region will use seal-proof fishing gear outside the restricted areas and times.
A ban on fishing with nets took effect in April around certain parts of the Saimaa lake region and will remain in place until the end of June.
The latest birth rate figures show that conservation work aimed at protecting and replenishing the population of the highly-endangered but much-loved Saimaa seals is proving successful.
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