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Saimaa Ringed Seal - Zen Master of the Waterway
Many associate seals as seawater dwellers. However, there is a quiet breed of freshwater seal called the Saimaa Ringed Seal that dwells in select areas of the Saimaa Lake district in Finland, which is the fourth largest lake in Europe. This animal came to adapt to living in freshwater when its ancestors survived the transformation process of the Ice Age and found safe harbor in the lake. The seals are territorial and typically return to the same breeding grounds to build their lairs. A unique characteristic of this animal is its need for harmony. Habitat encroachment, fishing nets, and industrial noises create a great disequilibrium for these inhabitants and greatly impedes on their ability to breed. This is a great concern, as the gestation period for a pup is 11 months, and a female gives birth to only one pup at a time, which requires the mother's attention for a minimum of 3 years. The population census has recorded that this Zen master of the waterways teeters on the brink of extinction with under 300 remaining in existence. The only predator of this seal is the human, which means we are entirely accountable for its demise.
Shockingly, the Saimaa Ringed Seal has been under legal protection since 1955, yet their population size continues to decrease. The seal falls under protection acts put in place by the United States, Finland, and the European Union. This means people from around the world are funding the protection of this species and its habitat through taxpayer dollars, without result. Not only is the multinational inaction a disservice to endangered species preservation, but it also speaks to the misappropriation of funds. One might suppose this means that the corrective action is too big to fix, or that extinction is a natural inevitability. This is not the case. The problem for this animal boils down to human laziness and apathy. This is evidenced by people and government entities ignoring the simple solution to this animal's dilemma.
The immediate fix to allow this seal to prosper is a very simple one and it has to do with the use of fishnets; 40 of every 50 pups born each year die from entanglement. The corrective action is to cease the use of fishnets and replace them with traps; that is it. Now, under these very expensive protection acts in place, the use of fishnets in a protected habitat containing a critically endangered species is illegal. All that is needed for a productive solution is to hire and train people to patrol the waterways, remove abandoned fishnets, and arrest those who would dare use nets over traps. Once fishermen are consistently arrested, fined, and have their boats confiscated, the use of fishnets will prove too costly. Therefore, the irresponsible behavior would stop and government entities would actually be providing protection to this endangered species. The question here is why have the numerous countries involved in the purported preservation of this animal not enforced the law?
Rather than wait around for the standard idiosyncratic political response on why this is too complicated a task. The global community should demand from their respective governments that it provide services for which constituents have paid. The fines and boat acquisitions would go a long way towards funding the protection of the species, while encouraging responsible human behavior.
This is such an avoidable catastrophe. Let your government know that responsible use of taxpayer funds matters. Make your voice heard by signing the Save the Saimaa Ringed Seal petition.
Content copyright © 2014 by Deb Duxbury. All rights reserved.
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