Greedy seals are leaving fishermen in Finland and Sweden with scraps, as they pick the nets clean and scoop the prize catches in the Gulf of Bothnia.
Although whitefish stocks in the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea have improved in recent years, professional fishers working the waters say their nets are consistently coming up empty. The problem, they say, is the large gangs of seals which are descending on the northern waters and gorging themselves at one of the choicest fishing spots around.
After fleeing to the warmer southern extremes of the Baltic during the harsh winter months, the seals are now being seen out in force, especially in the shallow seas along the northwest coast.
Professional fisherman Harri Lahti, based at Lohtaja along the coast of Central Ostrobothnia, said that despite popular belief, there are not plenty more fish in the sea. “They come in a herd into the shallows and pick the nets clean,” he said in a report by YLE. “Some of us can’t even be bothered to go out at all because it’s hopeless to get a good catch.”
The same tale was told by Tuomo Annunen, who fishes about 50km from Oulu, off the island of Hailuto. “The last time I was out I put in 200 nets and got a dozen whitefish. So, you can imagine what it’s like,” he said. “There would be plenty of whitefish, but the seals just terrorise them, grey seals especially. They can have their stomachs full and still tear fish out of the nets and chew them up, even if they don’t want to eat them,” he added.