About the Caspian Seal
In the Caspian Sea there is a tiny little seal that grows to be only around 1.5 meters in length which has long called the rocky banks and waters of the land locked area home; but this familiar site is disappearing. This smallest of what is known as the “true seal" family of marine mammals is facing a dire future as its status on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species was upgraded to Endangered during the meeting of the World Conservation Congress this week.
Why a Threatened Species?
Researchers studying the Caspian Seal from the University of Leeds together with other researchers have documented a troublesome drop off in the seals population of 90 percent over the past century. A 2005-2006 study of the seals, which appeared in the journal Ambio revealed a very troubling census of the seals showing that there were only around 17,000 females found to be in the breeding population. This was extremely troublesome because the pups of these small seals have a very high mortality rate with few surviving each year.
Concern over the future of the seals became even more stressed when the recent 2007-2008 study showed a massive 60 percent drop in the birth rate of Caspian Seal pups with a loss of over a third of the breeding population since the 2005 numbers. The seals rapid decline is due to human activities including the commercial fishing industry whose nets drown the seals, hunting, pollution and encroachment into the seal's habitat and disease. Before these activities started to decimate the Caspian Seal population, the area was home to over a million seals. Now, thousands of them are hunted and killed every year.
What Can be Done
The first step in saving this fragile and endangered species is to institute a complete ban on hunting the seals by all of the nations touching the Caspian Sea including Russia, and Turkmenistan. This is just the first step that will be needed if the Caspian Seals are to be saved. After NOAA researchers officially declared the Caribbean Monk Seals extinct due to human activities earlier this year and with the rise of even more threatened and endangered species many are worried about the fate of the Caspian Seals and it will require a comprehensive conservation effort to protect them and restore their populations which are required to retain biodiversity on earth; something all life on the planet needs, including humans.