Rare Seal Pups Stranded on Shrinking Arctic Ice
As the sea ice on which it depends breaks apart, the Baltic ringed seal of northern Europe is declining fast, experts say.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia“One, two, three. ...” He counts 19 animals lounging on rocks before looking up.
They are all gray seals. The Baltic ringed seal is nowhere to be found.
It's April 20, the time of year when seal scientists like Verevkin, who works for the Russian Academy of Sciences, fly over the Baltic Sea to count numbers of the Baltic ringed seal, a marine mammal that, unlike the gray seal, is totally dependent on sea ice for raising pups.
But ice in the Gulf of Finland has been gone for weeks, due to an early spring. That's been happening more lately: The last time Verevkin could count Baltic ringed seals in April was 2012. At that time, he estimated only a hundred of them remain in the Gulf.
The Baltic ringed seal is one of several subspecies of ringed seal, which live throughout the Arctic. About 200,000 Baltic ringed seals lived in the Baltic—including the Gulf of Finland, the Gulf of Riga, and the Bay of Bothnia—in the beginning of the 20th century. (See