The Caspian Seal (Phoca caspica) is the world’s smallest seal and is endemic to the Caspian Sea. It can be seen all over the sea, from the coastal regions of the North Caspian to the shores of Iran. The bulk of the population is concentrated in the Northern Caspian in the winter, early spring and late autumn; it reaches the heads of the Volga and Ural in mid-autumn, while in late spring, summer and early autumn the seal is found in the Central and Southern Caspian Sea. The Caspian Seal stands outs from other types of seals with its body structure, diet, way of life and many other morphologic features.
The Caspian Seal population has shrunk by 90% in the past century, putting this unique species on the brink of extinction. Its population was at one million at the dawn of the 20th century, although aerial photographs indicate the population had fallen to four-hundred thousand in 1989, one-hundred eleven thousand in 2005 and no more than one-hundred thousand in 2008.
Only seventeen thousand seals among the population in 2006 were capable of successfully breeding, which is insufficient for supporting the species’ survival when accounting for newborns’ vulnerability. Research done in 2007 indicated that the baby-seal population shrank by a shocking 60% and made up no more than seven thousand of the total population. The World Conservation Union included the Caspian Seal in its vulnerable species list in the 20th Century, while they have now been inserted it in the endangered species list.
There are, unfortunately, many reasons for this eye-popping fall in the Caspian Seal population. The primary ones are the Caspian Sea being polluted with poisonous chemicals and heavy metals, as well as the appearance of new species that increase the level of infectious seal diseases and exhausts the food supply. Hunting and other human activities are also a reason for the population’s sharp fall: Leeds University researchers’ data shows that hunters in Russia kill up to eight thousand baby seals a year; seals get tangled in fishing nets and suffocate, shorelines are being actively developed and exploratory work and oil production are being conducted. The seals’ inability to breed quickly enough makes the situation even more acute: a single female gives birth to only one baby a year. Now, with the population being so small, the death of just one fertile female Caspian Seal heightens the risk of the species extinction.
The Caspian Sea’s and its shorelines’ environmental problems will continue to grow as a result of an increase in the man-made impact on the Sea’s eco-system and the production of hydrocarbons. The Caspian Seal, a species inseparable with the Caspian Sea’s eco-system, depends on our generation’s awareness in order to survive.
Having accurate information and opening the public eye toward saving the Caspian Seal is very important. This section focuses on helping this cause.
We welcome any questions, comments or recommendations.
Biodiversity Conservation Center
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Moscow, 117312, Russia
Tel.: +7 (499)-124-50-22
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