Tougher fishing-net rules urged in Finland to protect rare seals; plastic-use curbs urged in Sweden to protect oceans

YLE News and Radio Sweden

The Finnish branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature is demanding immediate tougher action to protect the highly-endangered Saimaa seal population. The strongly-worded call follows the third death of a pup since the end of a spring and early summer ban on certain types of fishing nets in their habitat.

The seals -- which are endemic to Eastern Finland’s vast Saimaa lake system -- are hovering on the brink of extinction with just over 300 individuals left. So far at least seven have died in nets this year. The latest fatality, a pup was found earlier this month, entangled in a permanently banned type of fishing net in Haukivesi, near Varkaus and the boundary of Linnansaari National Park.

“There is not now time to wait for the end of the summer holidays,” WWF Finland Secretary General Liisa Rohweder said on Wednesday. “The Council of State’s regulations to protect the Saimaa seals should be immediately changed so that the ban on net fishing in Lake Saimaa can be extended as soon as possible. An expansion of the restricted area should also be studied so that it could be changed this autumn if necessary.”

The WWF says it has been in contact over the issue with Petteri Orpo, who took over a month ago as Minister of Agriculture, with responsibility for fisheries.

Plastic waste threatens oceans, say Swedish researchers

Researchers in Sweden are calling on people to use less plastic in an effort to help protect the oceans as well as human life.

Writing in newspaper Dagens Nyheter Wednesday, three researchers said plastic waste of all sorts is finding its way into the oceans and seas and being eaten by marine life.

They said that small bits of the material entering the food chain are then being consumed by humans who eat the seafood. The plastic could also leach chemicals into the waters and fish, they warned.

“More than half of all plastics contain chemicals that are classified as hazardous according to the UN,” they wrote. “New research shows that fish that eat plastic absorb toxic chemicals found in plastics, chemicals which are then passed on to humans.”

Starting next week, researchers with Örebro University will begin a series of sailing expeditions around the Baltic Sea to measure and study the amount of litter and plastic floating in the water.

“We need to identify how much plastic is in the oceans and what size it is, for it is quite important, we believe, on how dangerous plastic will be to the environment, marine environment and even for us humans in the end,” said Anna Kärrman, an associate professor in chemistry at the university and one of the authors of the editorial.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.