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Bycatch in Lake Ladoga Fisheries Remains a Threat to Ladoga Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida ladogensis) Population
Abstract: Semistructured interviews were carried out between September 2019 and February 2020 with fishermen from fishing fleets in 23 locations on Lake Ladoga, northwest Russia. This was part of a multiyear Ladoga ringed seal (Pusa hispida ladogensis; Nordquist, 1899) bycatch monitoring program launched in 2007. According to the Federal Fisheries Agency, 306 fishing permits were issued in 2019 for a total of 222 fishing teams. Fishing gear that causes seal bycatch includes gill and fyke nets used in the Leningrad Region, and frame nets, gill nets, and stationary seines used in the Republic of Karelia. In 2019, we observed a general decline in fishing effort and catches throughout the lake compared with previous years. We noted a transition from large-scale to small-scale individual fisheries due to the cheaper operation and maintenance of a small boat fleet. Fishermen largely gave up fyke nets, trawls, and traps in favor of light gill nets and frame nets with thin netting. We estimated an overall decrease in annual seal bycatch rate from 700 seals in 2011 to around 250 seals in 2019, which is likely associated not only with the decrease in fishing effort but also with the transition to thin netting gear. This conclusion is also supported by a 65.9% decrease in the mean number of bycaught seals per fishing team. Nevertheless, this bycatch rate is still sufficiently high to remain a threat to the population, and the seal–fisheries conflict requires further mitigation.
Key Words: Ladoga ringed seal, Pusa hispida ladogensis, bycatch, fisheries, questionnaire survey
Page Numbers: 470-481