Breed­ing area in Bo­hai Sea slated to get bet­ter pro­tec­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By ZHU CHENG­PEI ZHANG XIAOMIN

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China’s only na­tional na­ture re­serve for spotted seals will be nar­rowed for more ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion, an of­fi­cial with the pro­tec­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

As the breed­ing area for spotted seals in China, the re­serve cov­ers an area of 6,722 square km in the Bo­hai Sea near Changx­ing Is­land of Dalian, Liaon­ing prov­ince.

“We are plan­ning to make some ad­just­ments and op­ti­miza­tion for more ef­fec­tive mea­sures and bet­ter pro­tec­tion by nar­row­ing down the range and avoid­ing hu­man in­ter­rup­tion in the core area,” said Wang Tao, di­rec­tor of the ad­min­is­tra­tive bureau of the Dalian Spotted Seal Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve.

Wang said that be­fore the area was up­graded to a na­tional-level na­ture re­serve in 1997, it was a tra­di­tional fish­ing area, and many ship­ping routes passed through it. A large area was laid out to pre­vent il­le­gal hunt­ing.

There had been ram­pant hunt­ing for the seals’ fur, oil (used for heal­ing burns), and penises (used as an aphro­disiac).

The num­ber of spotted seals in Liaodong Bay was sharply re­duced from 8,000 in the 1940s to fewer than 2,000 in the late 1970s, ac­cord­ing to the study of re­searchers led by Wang Pilie from the Liaon­ing Ocean and Fish­eries Sci­ence Re­search In­sti­tute.

We are plan­ning to make some ad­just­ments and op­ti­miza­tion for more ef­fec­tive mea­sures and bet­ter pro­tec­tion.” WANG TAO DI­REC­TOR OF THE AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TIVE BUREAU OF THE DALIAN SPOTTED SEAL NA­TIONAL NA­TURE RE­SERVE

Since 1982, the lo­cal govern­ment has taken var­i­ous mea­sures to pro­tect spotted seals.

“Af­ter many years of ef­fort, people are highly con­scious of the pro­tec­tion. There is al­most no il­le­gal hunt­ing,” Wang said.

Ma Zhiqiang, a Liaon­ing Ocean and Fish­eries Sci­ence Re­search In­sti­tute re­searcher, par­tic­i­pated in much of the res­cu­ing work.

Spotted seals give birth to young ones on ice floes, he said. New­borns have long white fe­tal hair. Be­fore the hair is shed in two weeks, they rely on breast­feed­ing and can­not swim nor catch fish by them­selves.

“If the sea ice is nor­mal, usu­ally they need no help. But if there is lit­tle ice, the mother seal might have dif­fi­culty find­ing her baby af­ter swim­ming a long way to catch fish. We bring pups in dan­ger to Dalian Su­na­sia Ocean World,” Ma said.

The park has one of the largest bot­tle­feed­ing bases for spotted seals. It has ac­cepted more than 40 res­cued spotted seals since 1999. Ex­cept for sev­eral se­verely wounded ones, most of them sur­vived, said Zhang Shengjiu, a trainer with Su­naisa.

In 2007, with the help of ex­perts from LOFSRI, train­ers in the park started to breed spotted seals, and about 40 have been born in the ar­ti­fi­cial en­vi­ron­ment, he said.

Four spotted seals that per­formed well in wild train­ing were re­leased into the wild in 2010, and an­other six oth­ers were re­leased in 2011. Re­searchers from LOFSRI pasted po­si­tion­ing equip­ment on their back to track their route but the equip­ment fell soon.

Spotted seals mainly eat fish, some­times crus­taceans and cephalopods.

In re­cent year, the re­duced fish­eries of the Bo­hai Sea have be­come a prob­lem.

En­vi­ron­ment pol­lu­tion caused by coastal ar­eas’ de­vel­op­ment and dirty wa­ter dis­charges also in­flu­ence the spotted seals’ breed­ing.

“I hope all of so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing the govern­ment, en­ter­prises, re­search in­sti­tutes, and res­i­dents, act to­gether to im­prove the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment for spotted seals,” Wang said.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Dalian Su­na­sia Ocean World, which has ac­cepted more than 40 res­cued spotted seals since 1999, is one of the largest bot­tle-feed­ing bases for spotted seals.

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