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GAZETA WYBORCZA

Battered Baltic Seals And Polish Fishermen Nightmare

A dozen dead and mutilated seals, together with a few porpoises, have recently been found on Polish beaches in the Baltic Sea. How did it get to this?

Seals on the Baltic Sea
Seals on the Baltic Sea
Kasia Nowakowska

-Essay-

GDANSK — Reports of murdered seals are alarming. Not only because of the number of the deaths, although it is greater than in previous years, but also due to the magnitude of the brutality of the perpetrators. Ripped-out stomachs, crushed skulls, bricks tied to the necks of the animals — people using such a repertoire of murder techniques should be separated from society as soon as possible. They are a danger to the public at large.

As it is known from profiling various psychopaths and murderers, in regards to killing, getting just a "taste" for killing is all you need to get hooked. But looking beyond purely criminological matters, the threat to seals along the Polish coast of the Baltic Sea requires immediate action. The fact that Polish (and not only Polish) seal fisherman struggle to discover a true capacity to love has been the stuff of legend throughout history. And yet nothing in Poland has ever been done to resolve the consequences of such a state.

Yet what's the real problem here? These clever animals treat fishing boats like floating cafeterias; instead of hunting themselves, they feast on the fishermen's catches already in the nets. While eating, some of them get caught and die — many sea birds also lose their lives this way. Coming to our fisherman in a damaged state, the situation is dealt with in the most grotesque of ways. Anonymous fishermen have explicitly stated their intentions in the media.

It is easy to understand the bitterness.

In such a situation, with the regular loss of part of each day's catch, the state should compensate the fisherman, as in the case of farmers facing environmental damages. However, the fishermen's losses are not covered by Poland"s current applicable law (fish caught on board are considered to be caught, those lost to the seals in nets underwater do not count). It is easy to understand the bitterness of people who lose their source of income to poaching seals. Another issue is Polish fishing's obsolete, ineffective methods, without the means of implementing the kind of techniques used in Scandinavia, for example.

Fishing boats in Sopot, Poland — Photo: Maciej Lewandowski

In this context, the population of seals on the Polish coast is rather modest, just a few hundred feeding off the fishing boats, as they do not breed here and do not establish permanent colonies.

The solution to this problem is actually quite simple. The Polish law should protect all seals and porpoises (stated in the paragraph on nature protection from 2004), but does not acknowledge or provide solutions to the protection of this species. Therefore, the consequences of this oversight are directly borne by the fishermen who are losing income, but also indirectly by all of us. If seals are again to be endangered in our part of the Baltic Sea — after the attempted reintroduction of these animals to our waters for the last several years — we will miss out on the opportunity to interact with this part of our wildlife, observe it and learn to respect it. Only cods should be fried.

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