New research project launched: Impacts of seals and cormorants on the small-scale coastal fishery in Baltic Sea Region
Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project and the Natural resources Institute Finland have launched a study to research impacts of growing populations of seal and cormorant on livelihoods of coastal small-scale fisheries in the Baltic Sea Region
The future of this fishery segment is very uncertain in most countries around the Baltic Sea. The major problem is declining profitability, caused by a number of factors such as rising costs, declining catches, competition from imported fish, and more recently also by a threat from fish-eating species such as seals and cormorants.
The total number of grey seals in the Baltic Sea is increasing yearly with 7-8% since 2000 when coordinated counting between the Baltic Sea states was introduced Grey seal population has increased dramatically in recent decades. Studies show that the population has increased eight times higher since the 1980s, and the number of grey seals in the Baltic Sea is officially estimated to be 28.000. However, according to other estimates, this number can be as high as 54.000. In addition, there are about 25.000 Ringed seals in the Bothnic Bay.
The cormorant has also recently become a major problem for commercial fisheries. Previously, a small number of cormorants from the Atlantic Ocean visited the Baltic Sea during winter, but in the past decades the cormorant has expanded from Central Europe to the Baltic Sea and has grown from single colonies to an estimated 160.000 pairs in 2001.
Newly emerging concerns such as the ecosystem impact of seals and cormorants, as well as unforeseen consequences such as spreading of parasites, until now largely absent from the discussion, should also be taken into account.
Moreover, research data show that both species also affect the fish population in other ways, as their presence scares away fish stems from their natural breeding and growth areas. In order to ensure sustainable development of the Baltic Sea and its coastal communities, it is important that the impact of seals and cormorants on the fish stocks and on the livelihood of the small-scale fisheries will be estimated.