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WWF shuts down lake salmon webcam after youths disturb site

The video camera captured footage of what appeared to be youths disturbing the endangered salmon's spawning grounds.

Järvilohi Hiihtolanjoessa
A lake salmon in the Hiitolanjoki River, captured by a WWF Finland video camera. Image: WWF

Conservation group WWF Finland said it has removed a web camera that was monitoring endangered lake salmon after unwelcome human visitors disturbed the site.

On Sunday, the group's webcam set up at the Hiitolanjoki River in the southern municipality of Rautjärvi captured video footage of what appeared to be a number of youths walking along the salmon's spawning grounds.

The organisation said this was the first time it had seen intentional human interference in one of its numerous nature video broadcasts.

The majority of WWF's camera setups are positioned so that their locations are not revealed, according to the group's communications director Joonas Fritze.

"In this sense, the Hiitolanjoki River camera was an exception as we openly revealed its location. The disturbance was really unfortunate and we have to turn off the camera because of it," Fritze explained.

Such disturbances can, in the worst case, have a significant impact on the number of hatchlings in the spring, he said, as salmon bury their fertilised eggs in the soft riverbed. Walking on spawning grounds can damage and even destroy the tiny developing eggs.

The WWF's freshwater officer, Manu Vihtonen, said the video footage captured on Sunday suggested that the individuals walked along parts of the lake salmon's largest spawning grounds in the area.

Before it was shut down, the Hiitolanjoki River camera's video feed had been viewed about 62,000 times over the past month.

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