Current information on Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant project

The situation now

The Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project proceeds as planned. So far two major parts of the project have taken place.

Firstly, an investigation has been made of 50 national research reports concerning seal and cormorant damages, concentrating on the measurement of the economic loss for the fishermen.

Secondly, the first 230 interviews have been collected from Finland (5 FLAGs), Sweden (7 FLAGs), Germany (1 FLAG) and Estonia (1 FLAG). The questionnaire was quite comprehensive, and the fishermen gave their estimation on the economic loss, change of workload, loss of catch etc. caused by seals and cormorants.  All the gathered information will be investigated by academics on a scientific level. We expect to get the first results early next spring.

About the preliminary results can be said, that the situation is very serious and that there is a big variation in different areas. It seems that e. g. in Finland the income of the fishermen has dropped to an average of two thirds during the last 15 years. At the same time, one has had to invest a lot more on the equipment, and the workload has grown significantly – except for those who cannot put their gear in the sea in the autumn months because of the seals.

The project has been presented in a couple of occasions recently:  for Baltic Sea Advisory Council and in DG Mare -meetings.

Three Finnish MEP:s, some MP:s and authorities visited Kotka, Finland, in the beginning of November. Esko Taanila, the manager of South Finland FLAG ESKO, got them interested in how to find new sustainable ways to save traditional small-scale fishery, and at the same time take care of the balance of the ecosystem.

Last week, FLAG ESKO also introduced the project to the audience of the seminar Östersjöfisket 2020 (”The Baltic fishery in 2020”) at Simrishamn, Sweden, and got very good feedback.


We got excellent news last week: fishermen from Poland and Denmark will join the project and answer the questionnaire. Those results will add considerably to the value of the project.

We are working on a communication plan for next year. We shall introduce the results of this project to different actors, and also inform about the possibilities and the meaning of benefiting from our wonderful resource: sustainably caught local fish.


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 fish population in other ways, as their presence scares away fish stems from their natural breeding and growth areas. In order to ensure a 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.