Breeding area in Bohai Sea slated to get better protection
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.
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.