In a move that polarizes some opinions in the country, the Estonian Environmental Board has permitted the seal hunting again, for the first time since 1970.
Although some environmental activists have asked for further debate over the topic, the Environmental Board has given permission to shoot 53 grey seals in Estonia in 2015.
More specifically, 33 animals can be killed in the Gulf of Riga, 12 in the Gulf of Finland, and eight will be shot on the shores of Estonian islands. The grey seal hunting period started on April 15, when the females finished suckling pups, and lasts until December 31.
Although grey seals have not been hunted in Estonia since 1970, when hunting was banned due to the low population level, the population has soared as a result and the numbers are increasing. The grey seal population of the whole Baltic region is around 30,000 animals, of whom nearly 5,300 live in the Estonian waters, according to last year’s data. By comparison, in 2001 there were just 10,000 seals in the whole Baltic Sea region.
Pressure to reduce seal numbers comes from the fishermen who blame them for causing millions of euros worth of damage to fish traps. Moreover, seals survive on a diet of fish and are therefore partly responsible for the diminishing fishing stock of the Baltic Sea. While Finnish and Swedish fishermen use expensive seal-proof fishing equipment, its high prices puts it out of reach for the Estonian fishermen.
When commenting on the problem to ERR News, one Estonian fisherman went as far as to suggest that at least 15,000 seals should be killed in the Baltic Sea as soon as possible – effectively wiping out half of the total population.
Only qualified hunters are permitted to take the lives of grey seals. The grey seal hunting is currently also permitted in Sweden, as well as in Finland.
The grey seal is the largest seal species in the Baltic Sea, with some adult individuals weighing over 200 kilograms and being over 2.5 meters long. Estonian grey seals belong to the same population as the animals living in Sweden and Finland.
Editor: S. Tambur