Saimaa seals citizen’s initiative reaches signature goal

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File picture of Saimaa ringed seal / Credit: WWFSuomi Instagram

A citizen’s initiative to ban net fishing in areas of Lake Saimaa that are home to endangered ring seals has reached the 50,000 signature threshold.

The petition was organised by a group of family and friends as four rare Saimaa ringed seal pups were found drowned this week, after a seasonal ban on fishing with nets expired at the end of June.

“This ringed seal is unique to Finland and we have a responsibility to conserve the species, because it cannot be undone if we kill that animal into extinction” says Binga Tupamäki from Kauniainen, who launched the citizen’s initiative petition with her best friend Iina Palonen. The pair are both members of the National Coalition Party youth movement Kokoomus Nuoret.

Any initiative which gathers 50,000 within a six month period will be looked at by parliament, and by Friday evening the Saimaa seal petition had reached almost 60,000 signatures.

“We were all really surprised because we didn’t do anything! Before, there were petitions on marriage equality for example which had huge advertisements and campaign management, but this was just the Palonen family and me who started this” Tupamäki tells News Now Finland.

“It really exploded on Facebook and other social media, and we were so surprised that people cared so much” she adds.

Activists say they want to see a year-round ban on fishing with nets in the Saimaa lake system, in particular areas where ringed seals live and breed.

One of the main arguments against such a ban is that it could impact the livelihoods of commercial fishermen. However, Tupamäki says commercial fishermen are already using seal-friendly methods to catch fish, and it’s recreational fishermen who have been using the nets.

There’s less than 400 Saimaa ringed seals left in the wild, one of the few species of freshwater seals to be found anywhere. They weigh up to 90kg and eat fish found in Lake Saimaa.

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