HELCOM Workshop on Seal-Fisheries Interactions

HELCOM Workshop on Seal-Fisheries Interactions Copenhagen, Denmark, 27 June 2019

BSAC representatives: Michael Andersen, Nils Höglund, Flemming Kjærulf, BSAC Secretariat

The chair of the meeting was pleased with the very good turnout (by primarily stakeholders and research, also BALTFISH Presidency). She stated that this is a workshop, aimed to build on discussions that have already taken place and to come forward with proposals. BUT she hoped it would be more ambitious: establish a broader cooperation in the Baltic on mitigation measures, and cooperation HELCOM – BSAC – BALTFISH – and to find solutions acceptable to environmentalists and to fishermen.
Jannica Heldin from HELCOM presented the HELCOM recommendation on the conservation of seals. It was issued in 2006 against the background of a steep decline in the Baltic seal population. It takes into account regional management plans. The recommendation allows no hunting and anthroprogenic removals only when the target reference level is exceeded. Yearly evaluations are issued.
Experts Mart Jüssi and Anders Galatius commented on the seal population in the Baltic (grey, ringed and harbour). Seal monitoring can never be exact, but the best estimate is by counting in the moult season. All seals are listed in the Habitats Directive. The Target Reference Level and Precautionary Approach Level were explained: they can only be quantified retrospectively.
Views and presentations from other fora: initiatives on how to deal with issues related to seal-fisheries interactions
The Swedish seal fisheries Sven-Gunnar Lunneryd explained that the problem with seals is real and he is not sure that enough can be done to save the fishermen. The number of vessels with gillnets and hooks is down from 199 (20019 to 76 vessels (2017) Seal safe gear is no quick fix.
Grey seals in German Baltic waters Michael Dähne German Oceanographic Museum
They are taking a different approach because German fishermen are now being affected by seals. Strandings of seals account for 25%-50% of the local seal population and this might be due to fyke nets. The solution is to develop new seal safe gears – an exclusion decide on trap nets is now obligatory.
Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC Project and possible future solutions Esko Taanila
He reported on the project that is now finished and encouraged the meeting to take it into account. The growing seal population means direct impacts on the fisheries, consumption of fish populations and spread of harmful parasites from seal worm and liver worm. His message: Either we have seal, according to HELCOM recommendation, or we have to import fish. We need to find a balance.


Nils Höglund from the BSAC explained concisely the discussions in the BSAC. He then gave CCB views on how to deal with the problem: “find the right questions and answers”. It was a very positive approach that recognised the problems and called for solutions, but had no precise recommendations for solutions. He also referred to the UNEP Protocol for scientific evaluation of proposals to cull marine mammals.
Group work The questions raised in the invitation to the meeting were discussed in four groups [two fisheries and two environment]. The outcome naturally differed among the groups, but generally, there was an acceptance that we do have a serious problem and that measures including regulating the number of seals are necessary.
Some called for a more adaptive management and this should happen now. Don’t open up the HELCOM Recommendation, but find local solutions to this problem.
A small scale fisheries representative called for a local approach to find out if the culling of seals works
An e NGO representative called for three actions: look at parasites (the feeding ecology of the fish), fishing gear and the conflicts, and the resource use.
There was a call to make the ecosystem approach more operational with concrete steps for the managers to act on – and to feed into a revised Baltic Sea Action Plan
There were no clear conclusions and no real agreement on the ways forward from this meeting.
Outcomes and discussions from this meeting will be reported to a new HELCOM meeting
There was a need to gather people from the fisheries and the mammals side to have a look at a more adaptive management.


Invitation – HELCOM Workshop seal-fisheries interactions

Draft Agenda_SFI WS 1-2019

Outcome SFI WS 1-2019

Background documents:

Document 1_The UNEP Protocol for the scientific evaluation of proposals to cull marine mammals

Document 2_English translation of a Soviet study on Infection of the liver of Baltic cod with roundworms

Document 4_Report on Possible solutions and mitigation methods

Document 3_Proposal for group work during the HELCOM Workshop on Seal-Fisheries Interactions

Date Posted: June 27, 2019

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