The development for marine mammals in the Baltic Sea area has been among key topics in the seal expert group wrapping up today in Turku, Finland. The details for the operational core indicators, such as abundance, distribution and reproductive status, are timely since the overall HELCOM indicator work is at full speed, expecting finalization for the missing indicators in mid-2015. Once ready, the core indicators enable comparison of monitoring data and assessment results across the entire region, as well as allows for measuring any progress towards the Good Environmental Status of the Baltic Sea. All seal populations in the Baltic Sea, except for the Kattegat harbour
seals, remain below the estimated levels in the beginning ofthe 20th
century. Photo: Shutterstock Furthermore, the seal expert meeting endorsed the guidelines on monitoring of seals, significantly improving the coordination of regional monitoring. The guidelines have been developed by the EU co-funded project, which is also developing databases for seal abundance and distribution. The databases will be hosted by the HELCOM Secretariat and made available for all public. So far only data on harbour porpoise has been updated in a dedicated database, therefore the development of the broader seal databases will aid to follow-up the population trends and status of these species. In the 1970s and 1980s the populations of all seal species in the Baltic Sea were alarmingly low due to hunting and reproductive disorders which have been connected to chemical pollution. The HELCOM Recommendation on Conservation of Seals in the Baltic Sea Area (2006) states that the long-term objectives for the management of Baltic Seals are a natural abundance and distribution and a health status that ensures their future existence. The further acknowledges the need for immediate conservation measures. As a regular activity, the three teams of the HELCOM Ad Hoc Seal Expert Group – on population size, distribution and health – will give their respective reports in the Meeting. . All documents will be public after the Meeting. * * * Note for editors:The HELCOM ad hoc Seal has been meeting annually since 2006. The group consists of marine mammal experts, scientists, and managers from the Contracting Parties around the Baltic Sea. Representatives of the fisheries sector also participate in order to improve dialogue related to the protection and management of marine mammals between the environment and fisheries sectors. The work is carried out in three teams, with a focus on population size, distribution, and health. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * *For further information, please contactPetra KääriäAssisting Professional SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 46 850 9204Skype: helcom49E-mail: petra.kaaria(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi
Conservation of the Baltic seals moves forward as databasse and core indicators for Baltic marine mammals were further developed in the seal expert group meeting wrapping up today in Turku, Finland.