Growing numbers bring gray seal culls back on the agenda in Estonia

Gray seal (Halichoerus grypus)
Gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) Source: Environmental Board

The targeted hunting of gray seals off the coast of Estonia is one possible solution to the species' threats to fisheries, the Ministry of the Environment says, while one expert calls for balance in the matter, rather than an emotional rush to blame wildlife.

The ministry said the last gray seal count came to 6,000, a record level, while Herkki Tuus, head of the ministry's fish resource department said the number had risen year-on-year for the past decade, at a rate of 5-6 percent, per year.

Markus Vetemaa, head of the University of Tartu's Maritime Institute told ERR's Novaator portal that the species causes damage to coastal fish stocks and thus to the fishing sector.

Vetemaa said: "Undoubtedly, this causes problems for fishermen. It's not that there is competition for food, where the seals eat up all the fish in the water, not at all, but rather that, since there are no fish in some areas, the seals have learned to feed from fishermen's traps, smart animals as they are."

The problem does not only affect Estonia's coasts.

"The Swedes and Finns say that they have stopped fishing in some areas," Vetemaa added.

A quota for gray seal hunting is already in place, but both Vetemaa and Tuus say that this is insufficient, while in any case the quota is not being met at the moment, due to restrictions.

"Perhaps consideration could be given to increasing culls, in a controlled manner, while this hunting would take place near the fishing traps /.../ as it is known that a very small number of seals is causing the damage."

Determining exactly what the gray seal population currently is in the Baltic Sea is also required, Vetemaa added.

Mart Jüssi, a marine biologist who has studied sealsfor decades, said instead that the entire fishing sector should be examined, to establish where its problems might lie. 

Jüssi said: "To say nowadays that birds and animals have ruined the life of humans is a bit old-hat. Looking at the modern picture, we should understand that we need to find a balance and move towards it, and not think that we can live endlessly off nature's resources."

"Today I would in this respect lie somewhat in defense of both seals and cormorants: If there is a problem, it must be broken down by components and see what thins are important apparent. Right now I get the feeling that these angry arrows are to readily let fly in the direction of birds and animals," Jüssi added.

The gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) is one of two seal species to be found off the Estonian coast, along with the ringed seal (Pusa hispida).


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

Source: Novaator

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: