Saimaa ringed seal research
The Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) is one of the most endangered seals in the world. It is a symbol of Lake Saimaa and the Finnish nature conservation movement. At present around 400 ringed seals live in Lake Saimaa, and some 80 pups are born annually. The most acute threats are related to gill-net fishing and changing climate, both of which have negative effects especially on young age classes. Due to the slow population growth rate and increasing negative climatic effects, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Saimaa ringed seal as endangered.
The Saimaa ringed seal research project at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) provides the scientific basis for the conservation of the Saimaa ringed seal population. UEF investigates ringed seal biology, estimates different risk factors, and develops new methods for conservation and monitoring. Research results have direct applications in conservation of the Saimaa ringed seal. The research group cooperates widely with both national and international partners. The main aim of UEF and other interest groups is to attain a favorable conservation status of the Saimaa ringed seal.
The focus of the Saimaa ringed seal research is related to the most essential and acute conservations issues. By-catch mortality, changing environment (especially climate change), viability of the population, and development of new methods are key elements in different research projects. Current research issues include behavioral ecology, genetics and population modeling. In addition, UEF maintains the Saimaa ringed seal tissue bank for current and future research and educational needs.