About a Ton of Seals Seized from Poachers and Other Causes of Death

The Border Service of Kazakhstan National Security Committee reported: in April 2024, 63 Caspian seals with a total weight of 1 ton, dozens of watercrafts, hundreds of kilometers of fishing nets and other fishing gear were seized from poachers. And, according to the overall results of the fish conservation action “Bekire-2024”, Kazakhstan border guards managed to release 67 seals into the sea. The Border Service did not inform on whether the animals had any injuries, wounds, etc.

The average weight of the confiscated 63 seals was approximately 16 kg – that is the weight of seal pups moulted (sivars). The sivar has velvety fur: from silver-gray on the back to snow-white with a bluish tint on the belly. Such fur is in demand on illegal market in the Caspian and other countries.

According to research conducted in Dagestan, the bycatch of Caspian seals in illegal fishing gear was 12.7 thousand individuals in 2019. Poachers hunt on seals directly also. In the spring of 2019, 15.9 thousand seal pelts were processed in the republic for illegal fur production, and 3.4 ton of seal blubber was rendered to oil (report by L. Svolkinas, International webinar “Research and conservation of the Caspian seal population”, Almaty, August 25-26, 2020).

Thousands of seals are dying in fishing nets! These terrifying numbers are just a small part of what is happening to rare and endangered species throughout the Caspian Sea.

In addition to death in fishing gear, the main threats to tthe population are:
– Pollution of the Caspian by industrial and domestic wastewater and, as a consequence, accumulation of hazardous substances in the body of animals. Cumulative polytoxicosis reduces immunity, increases susceptibility to parasitic, bacterial and viral infections, leads to pathology of reproductive and other organs. Weakened seals become extremely vulnerable to any negative factors.
– Anthropogenic impact on islands and sandbank, areas of the Caspian coast where seals usually haul-out. Seals are semi-aquatic marine mammals. They definitely need land for moulting and resting, especially seal pups and pregnant females.
– Reduction in food objects due to a number of reasons.

And last but not least. The Caspian seal will have no chance of survival if anthropogenic climate heating is not stopped. Due to warm winters, ice fields suitable for breeding seals in the Russian and Kazakhstani waters of the Northern Caspian are decreasing. The ice melts earlier. White-coat seal pups die not having time to molt and get stronger.

The Caspian seal is endemic to the Caspian Sea, recognized as a rare species in Russia, endangered – in Azerbaijan and Iran, rare and endangered – in Kazakhstan,  critically endangered – in Turkmenistan.

Fishing nets seized by Kazakhstan border guards, April 2024, the Caspian Sea. Photo by the Border Service of Kazakhstan National Security Committee.

Release to the nature. Photo by the Border Service of Kazakhstan National Security Committee.

Photos from the Border Service of Kazakhstan National Security Committee site.



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