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Citizens' initiative to ban fishing nets in ringed seal habitats proceeds to Parliament

More than 50,000 Finns signed the initiative within a few days.

Saimaannorppa huhtikuussa 2019 Puumalan eteläpuolisella Saimaalla.
Image: Ismo Marttinen

A citizens' initiative calling for a total ban on fishing nets in habitats used by the endangered Saimaa ringed seal has gathered more than 50,000 certified signatures in just three days. Having met that threshold, the proposal must now be considered by the Finnish Parliament.

The initiative was set up on Wednesday and proposes a year-round ban on the use of fishing nets in a bid to protect the rare seals, which are unique to the Saimaa lake system.

Currently a partial ban in the area prohibits the use of fishing nets from mid-April to the end of June. At least four seal pups have drowned since the ban was lifted last week.

The ringed seal population dropped to as few as 100 a few decades ago, but thanks to conservation efforts – including the springtime ban on fishing nets – their numbers have rebounded to an estimated 400.

Some 80-90 pups are born in the Saimaa lake region every year but the biologists estimate that as many as 60 young seals die annually.

This past spring forest management agency Metsähallitus counted a total of 67 live pups, which is fewer than in recent years, but weak ice conditions on the lake prevented a complete population assessment.

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